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Credit: DANCE MONKS/ Photographer: Robbie Sweeny

TLAOLI: People of the Corn (2016)  


Directed by: Rodrigo Esteva and Mirah Kllc Moriarty

Performers: Rodrigo Esteva, Mirah Kllc Moriarty, and Sebastian Esteva

Scenic Design/Costumes: Mirah Kllc Moriarty

Photographer: Robbie Sweeny

Lighting Designer: Wolfgang Wachalovsky 

Ritual: Ernesto Hernandez Olmos

Live Music: Laura Inserra

Films: Maestros Olvidados by Canal Catorce and Sunú by Theresa Camou


TLAOLI: People of the Corn was an interdisciplinary performance including old Toltec mythology, dance, and film, as a result of in-depth studies on corn as essential to Mexican cultural identity, the mythical relationship between people and plants, traditional sacred farming, and agricultural rituals. The artists traveled to Rodrigo's ancestral homeland of Oaxaca to attend a centuries-old, yearly gathering in celebration of corn  of indigenous communities throughout the region as well as visit the chinampas, floating gardens, of Mexico City.  The performance included projections of the documentary Maestros Olvidados (Forgotten Teachers) on the revival of this old farming method in Xochimilco. The word chinampa comes from the Nahuatl term chinámitl, meaning a hedge or fence made out of reeds. They are created by scraping nitrogen-rich mud and vegetation from the bottom of a canal and piling it inside a border of reeds to create a plot of farmable land.


TLAOLI asked crucial questions about migration, cultural displacement, and amnesia while observing the potential of the stories (held within the body) as seeds to restore soul memory. In times of forced or voluntary migration, what happens to the old traditions that unite people with the land? How can we, as immigrant artists and cultural centers, create a fertile ground for this wisdom to grow for future generations?


In response to these questions, DANCE MONKS also initiated a series of Tiangis (gathering places/ markets) for local Mexican immigrants as an essential aspect of the project that continues to date. The intention of these markets was to treat immigrants with the dignity we deserve with space to share cultural knowledge and sell handmade goods as small business owners and cultural entrepreneurs. Our intention was to make space for further collaborations in an environment where maintaining a connection with the motherland was encouraged and supported.

TLAOLI: People of the Corn was made possible thanks to the Doris Duke Foundation with additional support from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

Article published by In-Dance June 1, 2016

Review published by Alameda Magazine 2016

Review published by SF Gate June 20, 2016

Review published by SF Chronicle June 23, 2016

View excerpt of Tlaoli: People of the Corn

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