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Eveoke's 'Las Mariposas' Goes To The Dominican Republic

Eveoke Dance Theater's studio.
Eveoke Dance Theater
Eveoke Dance Theater's studio.

San Diego Dance Troupe Gets Grant To Tour

Eveoke’s ‘Las Mariposas’ Goes To The Dominican Republic
GUESTSErika Malone, co-creator of "Las Mariposas" and Eveoke's artistic director. Jessica Rabanzo-Flores, lead dancer playing Minerva in "Las Mariposas."

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. I want to let everyone know, we had scheduled San Diego County school superintendent Randy ward to be with us today. He was apparently unable to make it. And we're hoping to have him on the show as the week goes on. San Diego's Eveoke dance theatre is packing for a very special tour date. Their interpretation of the political novel in the time of the butterflies were so moving to the author of the book that the dance troupe has been sponsored to perform the piece in the nation where the story is set. The people of the Dominican republic will see Eveoke bring to life heroes of that nation's troubled past. Joining me to talk about the trip and the piece called Las Mariposas, are Erika Malone, cocreator of Las, and Eveoke's artistic director. MALONE: Thank you for having us. CAVANAUGH: And Jessica Rabanzo-Flores is lead dancer in Las Mariposas, welcome. RABANZO-FLORES: Thank you so much for having us. CAVANAUGH: Now, Las Mariposas, is about the Mira bel sisters. Remind us who they are. MALONE: They were four of them, patria, Minn everybodya, dede, and Maria treesasm they were sister who is grew up under the dictatorship Raphael Trujillo in the 50s and 60s. Actually just in the 60s. In 1960, 3 of those sisters were murdered by the dictator. And a fourth survived to tell and pass on their story, kede. She still is alive today. CAVANAUGH: And you brought the author of in the time of the butterflies that tells the story of the Mira bel sisters to San Diego to see the piece, Las Mariposas. Tell us about that experience and why you wanted to have her come here. MALONE: Well, Julia Alvarez is incredible. I got to obviously meet her and have dinner with her. And she is a force of nature. And we knew being that this is a woman's story told by a woman, and then interpreted through dance by a group of women here in San Diego, we knew we wanted to connect with the woman who brought this story to-in such a powerful way. And I feel like the way she tells the story in the book with a focus on love, forgiveness, and moving forward is very unique and really called to us. We wanted to meet this woman, we wanted to -- we actually partnered with SDSU, specifically the women's studies department, and Betsy Caldwell, they helped us bring her out here. We wanted to bring the story to as many people as possible. We know that people here at SDSU, and USD read the novel. And we wanted to bring it to life in a different way CAVANAUGH: And how did that trip, that visit by the author of this book lead to now your visit to the Dominican republic? MALONE: Her and her husband saw a dress rehearsal. They didn't even see the full production. They came into our studio and by the middle of the second act they were in tears. And the very first thing she said to the entire cast was that the people of the Dominican republic need to see this. So she planted the original seed CAVANAUGH: Wow. Now, Eveoke is known as a sort of unique dance company. And Jessia, you represent part of what makes it unique because you have a very long history with this troupe. Request you explain to us when you started to cans with Eveoke? RABANZO-FLORES: Yes, I am now 25 years old. I first joined Eveoke as a 10-year-old, part of the youth performing group. And I grew up with Eveoke. Eveoke became my second family, and I prodominantly trained with our founding artistic director, Gina Angelique, Erika Moore,, and Nicky dunnin, who played dede, the surviving sister, and is in the company. With really rigorous technical training as well as building my social conscience, Eveoke shaped me into the dancer and artist that I am today. And I left when I was 18 to go to school at university of California, Irvine, studied dance and sociologist, and reconnected with Eveoke when I came back, and it was just falling back into my family again and joining this immensely profound company CAVANAUGH: Tell us about the part you play, minervea RABANZO-FLORES: When I first read in the time of butterflies and already knew I was being cast as minerve AI constantly connected with this woman. She's a woman that I strongly admire and look up to, and she's ferocious. She's so brave and so courageous and was such a rebel in her own time and was stubborn, patient, had strong convictions and stood by what she believed in and wanted to live out her dreams and desires 100%. And it's the most special and incredibly profound I've ever played in my life. CAVANAUGH: Tell us, Erika, why these -- at least these three sister, the three of the four sisters were referred to as Las Mariposas, the butterflies. MALONE: Originally, mar-Posa NO. 1 was minervea, No. 2 was Maria treesasm they were their code names for the revolution. I don't know why they originally chose them other than that they were symbols of hope, and in the resistance. But after they died, Las Mariposas became just more than a symbol. I was listening to an interview this morning with the daughter of one of the sisters who died, she said they're more than a symbol and more than a legend. They represent the best of what is in the Dominican people. And that's how the butterflies came to be. CAVANAUGH: Now, your piece, Las Mariposas, mixes dance with spoken narrative. How does that work? RABANZO-FLORES: Erika and I, we're the cocreatures, we read the book together and met for a series of eight months every single week, and we constructed the adaptation. We chose specific phrases and lines from the book, so every single word in our adaptation is actually from Julia Alvarez's novel, and we constructed it into a narrative that is mostly linear. It starts when the sisters are very, very young. So we fall in love with them when while they're dancing and growing and learning about this world they're living in. And then it takes them all the way through after dede experiences their death. And then she really finds her power as a story teller, and how she's going to use this story to bring change to her country. So the narrative we found follows their life through all of these moments that we decided were the most important CAVANAUGH: We're going to hear a little piece of that narrative in which one of the younger sisters tries to understand her older sister, Minerva's activism. RABANZO-FLORES: We had a chance to talk, and she told me everything. Now I'm worried to death again. I swear, my older sister will be the death of me. I asked Minerva why she was doing such a dangerous thing. And then she said the strangest thing. She wanted me to grow up in a free country. CAVANAUGH: And that is part of the narrative of the performance by Eveoke dance theatre, their piece called Las Mariposas, which will be performed in the Dominican republic when? MALONE: We are leaving Saturday, November 26th. And we have three performances in three different cities. So every other day while we're there, we will be performing. CAVANAUGH: And part of your audience will be family members of the Mira bel sisters. In fact, I think dede, one of the sisters is planning to attend? She's in her 80, right? MALONE: Yes. CAVANAUGH: What does that mean? What will that bring to your performance, do you think while -- Jessica, while you're in the Dominican republic? RABANZO-FLORES: It just covers my body in chills to even think that we're getting this opportunity. And it's wanting to have this -- I have this desire in me to deliver appropriately the story of these sisters and to honor them with our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our spirits. To give them credit and it's such an honor. It's such an honor. And I'm so excited to be able to have this opportunity to do so. CAVANAUGH: Besides being an incredible honor and quite an experience, it's also quite logistically challenging, isn't it, to bring your dance troupe, Erika, with more than a dozen dancers ranging in age from 16 to 70 on this trip. Tell us a little bit about that MALONE: There's actually a group of 24 of us CAVANAUGH: 24. MALONE: If you include the cast, the crew, a couple of parents and supporters. And we really do believe we want to go as a whole team. If it weren't for Julia Alvarez, and the U.S. embassy, we would not be able to go. The U.S. embassy is fully supporting this troupe, everything from the airline tickets to the hotel to the transportation CAVANAUGH: Which is quite remarkable, really. MALONE: It is amazing. CAVANAUGH: Why did they -- did they tell you why they want to sponsor evoke's dance troupe going to the Dominican republic? MALONE: Our contact at the embassy is deeply committed to sharing this story. Even though she works at the embassy, she does a lot of workin her country to make sure that the butt are flies story is told. And she connected us with one of the museums there, the museum of resistance. And there's a woman there who's profoundly attached to spreading this story. So I think it's very personal from her. And once she got the letter from Julia Alvarez saying this needs to be seen, there was no going back for her. CAVANAUGH: You know, the very fact of evoke's dance theatre is sometimes described as activist theatre. And I'm going to give you a chance to calm down from your cough there and ask you, Jessica, what does that mean to you when you hear Eveoke dance troupe being called activist theatre? RABANZO-FLORES: Our mission statement is to cultivate compassionate social action. So behind every piece that we do, full length shows that we do, there's always a deeply rooted story that is about social change or about women or individuals that have lived their lives wanting to better their world and their surrounding environments. It's not always dance for entertainment, but it's dance to educate and inspire through that lens of a social conscience. CAVANAUGH: And I know that Eveoke does not tour off. You pretty much stay here in San Diego RABANZO-FLORES: Yes. CAVANAUGH: And so this is a big difference for you RABANZO-FLORES: This is huge CAVANAUGH: And I'm wondering, Erika, does it make you reconsider the whole idea of tour something MALONE: It has, surprisingly. Want this phrase, conscious touring comes to mind, written every show we do, is there a particular place to pick where it would make the most sense to tour. We're doing a show this summer called the Jila show, and how amazing would it be to take this to the south and tour it where the story takes place, I thought? So it's like a whole new idea forming around conscious touring. So we're in the baby stage was exploring that. CAVANAUGH: Well, this just sounds extremely exciting. So glad you were able to come in and tell us about it. And you're leaving on November 26th to go to the Dominican republic to dance for the people of the Dominican public, their own story, Las Mariposas. I want to thank Erika Malone, and Jessica Robanzo Florez for speaking with us today. Thank you both so much. RABANZO-FLORES: Thank you Maureen. MALONE: Thank you.

San Diego's Eveoke Dance Theater will be bringing it's production "Las Mariposas" to the Dominican Republic this week. Artistic director and co-creator Erika Malone and lead dancer Jessica Rabanzo-Flores join us in studio to discuss the tour.

Eveoke Dance Theater adapted "Las Mariposas" from Julia Alvarez’s book "In the Time of the Butterflies." The book and dance production both focus on the Mirabel sisters, 4 Dominican women who opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and paid a heavy price for their dissidence. Last year, Eveoke was able to bring Alvarez out to San Diego. The writer was so moved by the production that she started the ball rolling on getting the dance company and it's production to the Dominican Republic. This week the dance troupe leaves for the Dominican with more than a dozen dancers.

Malone, who co-created "Las Mariposas," also serves as Eveoke's artistic director. She describes the company as "social activist theater." She says that is often misunderstood as having a political agenda but that's not what it is.


"Our mission is to cultivate compassionate social action," Malone says, "People often forget compassion in that equation. What goes into that compassion is multiple perspectives, listening to wide range of perspectives and then presenting them to an audience."


Erika Malone, co-creator of "Las Mariposas" and Eveoke's artistic director.

Jessica Rabanzo-Flores, lead dancer playing Minerva in "Las Mariposas."