project image
Students and staff of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

first performed on February 01, 2020
ASU Art Museum
performed once in 2020


Aztec Dance by Grupo Coatlicue

Wilmington, Ca & New Haven, CT


A group of Aztec dancers, accompanied by flutes and conch shells, makes its way down the stairs of an inverted stepped pyramid, past pillars, and enters the museum space. They are now underground. A drum can be heard resonating amongst the pillars that divide the galleries. The flutes seek out the drums, as dancers make their way through the galleries, up steps until they reach the interior ground level and beyond. They summit further up the corridors of the museum. They dance their way back down, orbiting the architectural layout.

Along the way, they find me within the gallery spaces. I am led to the lower bowels of the space, underground. A symbolic journey is complete. The dancers take formation, as I am blessed before entering their space. La Danza del Fuego ensues to the beat of the drum and I am signaled to begin the task of breaking down the pillars, each of which weighs an approximate 1200 lbs. They are a recreation of the architecture that surrounds us. A recreation that in its inception, through the hands that built it are an original, out of place but full of context.

The energy of the dancers is contagious, I dig and claw the clay, adobe, and other substrates of the columns in search of the gold that the fire dance promises. One form is uncovered. A gold orb, an ode to ball game architecture, to the sun, and to the breaking down of corn for our consumption. I am signaled by the dancers to break down the second pillar. Exhausted from the first task, sweat beading my brow, I begin tearing down the second pillar. A second golden form emerges. A nopal. A cactus; resilient symbol of identity, consumed for millennia, a mythical reference, but still just a cactus. Food for the poor. But food that has endured and helped us endure, to be here, reclaiming our forms, and making our presence known.

The fire dance satisfied—for it is the fire and dance that sought the gold, forgotten forms, myths, and truths—a final blessing is bestowed by the lead dancer before I am signaled to follow. We snake our way out, past columns, up steps beneath the inverted pyramid, and into the waning light of the Arizona sunset.