Con Brazos Abiertos (2017)

Con Brazos Abiertos

Choreography by Michelle Manzanales
Artistic Collaboration with Ray Doñes
Soundscape includes Carla Morrison, Cheech & Chong, Julio Iglesias, Edward James Olmos, Gustavo Santaolalla, Michelle Manzanales, Juan Carlos Marin Marin, Ember Island, Mexican Institute of Sound
Poem by Maria Billini-Padilla
Costume Design by Diana Ruettiger
Lighting Design by Joshua Preston

Michelle Manzanales explores with humility, nostalgia and humor the iconic Mexican symbols that she was reluctant to embrace as a Mexican-American child growing up in Texas. Intertwining folkloric details with a distinctly contemporary voice in dance, set to music that ranges from Julio Iglesias to rock en Español, Con Brazos Abiertos is a fun and frank look at a life caught between two cultures.

About the Poet


Que es ahora?
Con brazos abiertos
I bring myself to you
a bronzed goddess
of native and foreign tongues.
una mujer with eyes
black like distant galaxies.
Lips abundant,
exploding stars,
hips carved
from ancient pyramids.
I am her.
I am here.
I am.

Yo soy el presente, el pasado,
y todo lo que te espera.
Are you listening?
Gliding in and out
of two worlds
that collide and combine
and will never fully be mine.

My language,
this culture of Latin warriors,
these kisses of fire,
these hot plates of jalapeño ecstacy.

Estoy aquí…
con brazos abiertos,
without criminality or apologies,
without the heat of shame,
without chains, or borders,
or green paper work.
Instead there are green pastures,
sombreros, tortillas, familia, maíz, arroz con frijoles,
newspapers, musicá, inventions, libros and blue prints.
Engineers and painters,
poets and lovers.

My hair long black strands of defiance,
of protest, of voters, of builders,
of fighters, of mothers, of daughters.
Una Madona Bonita,
peligrosa but sweet
like piñas y mangos,
like apple pie and ice cream.
Pero linda en mi ropa,
beautiful in my skin.
A moving mountain.
A breathing testament.
I am here
con brazos


A native New Yorker, Maria “Vida” Billini is a Dominican American bilingual poet, whose confessional style highlights her voice as she blends city living with her Caribbean roots, an urban mix of music, Spanglish, and the art of the spoken word. She graduated with an MFA in Poetry from The City College of New York, and ever since has been exploring various themes in her poetry such as gender bending, menstruation, motherhood and the Latina struggle.

She has been published in Shakefist Magazine, The Burning Word Literary Magazine and the The Promethean. She is currently working on two chapbooks, Beautiful Mentirosa, and Cuchifrito Dreams. She has performed in the Menstrual Cycle Research Annual Conference, The Turnstile Reading Series, Show N’ Tell Em showcase, Nuyorican Poets Café, MFA Reading Series at Bar 82 and the SpeakUP showcase at the Sofa Lounge. Shortly after her first son was born, Billini established her blog, vidaandthecity, where you can find more of her work, poems, and personal essays.

Con Brazos Abiertos (2017)

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