Origins of Flight, a dance performance by the David Herrera Performance Company that opened Friday night and will be performed again tonight at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts tells the story of a young, pregnant woman who immigrates to the United States from Mexico.

If the story is a familiar one, the production is not.  The story of Herrera’s mother, Benita, begins with a video collage of footage created by the show’s media designer Olivia Ting.

“I started putting together the collage as an emotional landscape,” said Ting. “I took a lot of elements from a larger visual and pieced it together to make it look like a memory.”

With vivid scenes and strong performances from the nine dancers, the 90-minute production, which also mixes traditional Mexican music with modern percussion, evokes the emotion and struggle of the young immigrant.

The mother is played by Mia Yamada, who does a beautiful job as an actress and a dancer in portraying the role.

“I purposely waited for this role to be filled by such a person because I felt that a woman of color would have more of an understanding of what it means to be marginalized in present-day America,” Hererra said.

“It is a very personal story for David,”  Yamada said. “He gave us the background but in the end, we had to make it our own.

Laid over the footage is also a collage of sound, including an automated telephone prompter that the audience knows well: “For English press one, for Spanish press two.”

Because of the powerful dancing by Evan Hart Marsh, who is the on-stage David Herrera, and the choreography,  the simple phone instruction takes on much meaning as the audience becomes a witness to the struggle to communicate.

Herrera’s mother, who was in the audience,  was clearly touched by the performance.  “I feel emotional, sad,” she said. “He presented my story and I remember things.”  And of course, she is proud. “I’m very excited for him. Happy for him.”

“Origins” is the product of a three-month collaboration with David Herrera Performance Company and the Mission Cultural Center.   Herrera has been in a three-month residency at the center developing the production.

Julio Delgado, a teacher from High Tech High School in San Diego brought several students to the show on their visit to San Francisco for the Latin Film Festival.  “I thought it was great,” said Delgado.  “It was very strong, very powerful.”  Though not what he was expecting, Delgado, who anticipated more traditional Latino music, felt the performance was a good experience for his students.

“In all honesty, I did think about whether or not it was a bad choice to have non-Latino people portray Latino characters,” he said, “but at the end of the day I was convinced that “Origins” was most importantly a human story and skin color and race were secondary.”

The production will travel to Santa Cruz, California and Chicago. For more information check with the David Herrera Performance Company.

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Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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