Atomic Repercussions:

Yvonne Montoya’s Pajarito

A video essay by baylie macrae

Four dancers perform on a stage lit in blue and purple. Three of the dancers are running across the stage from left to right, and are slightly blurred from the motion. Two of these dancers are women and the other is a man The fourth performer, a woman, stands motionless upstage with her arms by her side, facing the audience.
Performance of Pajarito at Community Performance & Arts Center in Green Valley (2023). Photo by Dominic AZ Bonuccelli.

Choreographer and Nuevomexicana Yvonne Montoya is an awardee of NPN’s 2022 Creation Fund, 2022 Fall Development Fund, and 2023 Documentation & Storytelling Fund for Pajarito, a dance performance that explores the multigenerational impact of the atomic age on one family, as part of the collection of dances called Stories from Home.

Baylie MacRae is a freelance dance artist, video editor, and content creator.

Produced in collaboration with Su Teatro and GALA Hispanic Theatre, Pajarito delves into the story of the Atomic Bomb’s creation in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Through the lens of choreographer and Nuevomexicana Yvonne Montoya, the production explores the tragic repercussions of the Atomic Age across four generations of her family, blending dance and spoken word. 

As part of the larger series Stories from Home, which celebrates the oral traditions of Nuevomexicano, Chicano, and Mexican American communities in the American Southwest, Pajarito offers a poignant portrayal of love, family, and home. 

“I think the real remarkable part of this dance is that Yvonne is able to tell it from her vantage point and express the history that represents so many families from Northern New Mexico, specifically the Pojoaque Valley and the Española Valley,” says Dr. Myrriah Gómez, author of Nuclear Nuevo México. “And she just does it from a place of personal transformation.” 

As the founder of Tucson, Arizona’s Safos Dance Theatre alongside Michele Orduña (Tohono O’Odham) and the creative force behind Stories from Home, Montoya draws inspiration from her great-grandmother, grandmother, great-aunts, and father’s oral histories to bring underrepresented stories to the stage.

Six dancers stand barefoot on a proscenium stage with black curtain backdrop and bright yellow and blue stage lights. In the foreground is a Nuevomexicana woman wearing blue jeans, white button up blouse, purple shawl around her shoulders and a silver concho belt. She looks to the audience and speaks with arms down by her sides. Slightly behind her left shoulder stands a Mexican American man wearing light brown wide leg pants and a purple flannel top with short sleeves. He stares at his left fist as it's raised towards the sky; his right arm is bent with a lifted elbow and hand close to throat. In the background four dancers stand in a horizontal row creating gestures with their arms.
(left to right) Esteban Rosales, Yvonne Montoya, David Bernal-Fuentes, Ruby Morales, Zarina Mendoza Orduño Mendoza, Lauren Jimenez perform Pajarito at Community Performance & Arts Center in Green Valley (2023). Photo by Dominic AZ Bonuccelli.
A medium brown skinned Mexican American dancer, wearing an orange overalls with buttons and a brown and black flannel shirt underneath, looks upwards while extending arms up and backwards with arch in back legs in a wide stance. He stands alone on stage with back curtains behind him. The background has a black curtain and a dark floor.
David Bernal-Fuentes performing Pajarito an excerpt of Stories from Home at Community Performing & Arts Center in Green Valley, AZ (2023). Photo: Dominic AZ Bonuccelli.


Choreography, Text & Performance: Yvonne Montoya
Dancers: Esteban Rosales, Ruby Morales, Zarina Mendoza Orduño, David Bernal-Fuentes, Lauren Jiménez
Music: “Pajarito” by Samuel Peña
Costume: Mary Leopo and team
Animation: Wesley Creigh
Advisor: Dr. Myrriah Gómez
Commissioners: Su Teatro, GALA Hispanic Theatre