Magia del Monarca


In February I had the opportunity to perform a dance piece at an art gallery closing party in Austin, Texas. The choreography was inspired by my trip to see the monarch butterflies overwintering in the mountains of Macheros, Mexico. After working in monarch butterfly conservation at the Environmental Defense Fund for nearly two years, I finally had the opportunity to witness the magic of the monarch butterfly firsthand.

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The day I started choreographing this piece was something out of a storybook (you can watch a short film I made of the trip here). I journeyed by horseback to the top of the Cerro Pelón mountain, where I encountered a seemingly infinite number of monarch butterflies. Those who weren’t busily sipping dew from blades of meadow grass formed an endless stream above me, all traveling in the same direction. I hiked further up the mountain and witnessed massive clusters of butterflies at the tops of oyamel fir trees. I ate my lunch with the sweet sounds of forest birds as background music. By the time I returned to the Butterfly Bed and Breakfast, I was buzzing with too much energy to stay in any one place for long. So when the sun went to sleep and the moon shone brightly in the sky, I went out to the back lawn, turned on some music from the the Cirque du Solei show, Luzia, and began to dance.

The combination of the magical butterfly scenes from earlier in the day, the sparkling stars surrounding me, and the genuine kindness of the people in the village of Macheros, energized my spirit’s creative energy and the choreography poured out of me.

On the drums is my dear and talented friend, Josh Peters.
Film by Dustin Estrada

There was something poetic about performing a piece about a species symbolizing rebirth and transformation at a closing party. Big Ass Canvas gallery owner Travis Huse felt it was time to migrate to Dallas, Texas where he is pursuing other artistic endeavors that combine visual and performing art.


Magia del Monarca Synopsis

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The story begins with Moana as a tiny egg resting on a milkweed leaf, her pulse quickening as she readies herself for her emergence. Although frightened to face the harsh elements outside her shell, the trumpets call to her, telling her she is ready.

Slowly and with great awareness, she embarks on her journey by scaling the edge of her milkweed leaf. She is empowered by visions of her future self soaring effortlessly with the wind. Upon achieving her full potential as a caterpillar, having devoured endless supplies of milkweed leaves, she finds herself drawn to the flowers of plants she will one day feast on as a winged creature.

With silk she attaches herself to a plant with beautiful orange flowers and hangs upside down. Thus begins her final and most grandiose metamorphosis: from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

She sheds her skin and the emerald green chrysalis is exposed. The painful transformation continues with her body tissues dissolving. Everything is digested except “imaginable discs,” which are very special cells that contain the genetic instructions for her butterfly parts. Within the chrysalis, her new form begins to take shape.

At last, she “ecloses”, her crinkled wings exposed to the air for the first time. She spreads her wings for the first time, allowing them to dry, and pumping her veins full of meconium. This less-than-pleasant substance allows her wings to harden so that she may take flight.

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She lifts off with a light breeze and begins her journey south. As she passes through the “Texas Funnel” she gets caught up in a windstorm that knocks her off course. She falls helplessly from the sky. Just as she is about to lose hope, she looks back up at the heavens and remembers how important it is that she make it to her destination. Her determination and passion for life are no match for the wind and she finds her way back in the sky, now soaring higher than ever.

She finally makes her way to Cerro Pelon, a mountain made distinctive by its lack of trees at the top. This is her home for the winter and where she is greeted by hundreds of thousands of other monarch butterflies who made a similar journey. She is in pure ecstasy.