Ana Mendez 100 Creatives
November 17, 2010 Ana Mendez is a one-woman pyro-technic show, detonating explosions as she dances across the stage. The 29-year-old Mendez has been a highlight in the most exciting South Florida productions since she moved to the area from Chicago in 2005. All eyes are on her petite but powerful frame, whether she is impersonating nature for Giovanni Luquini’s Idalina, exposing her breasts in Miami Contemporary Dance Company’s Tango Undressed, getting dumped into birthday cakes for Rosie Herrera’s Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret, or swallowing a potato for Octavio Campos’s Accelerate. At times it appears that it is not only her movement that mesmerizes the audience, but her raw emotion. Yet she claims that dancerly virtuosity bores her. That’s why, as a choreographer, Mendez practices what she calls “non-dance” and prefers to set her work on non-dancers. She had musicians flailing in her break-out piece, Tribute: A Summoning, dedicated to the memory and madness of British pop producer Joe Meek last February. Now she is preparing a troupe of visual artists to take the stage for her upcoming piece at the 2011 Here & Now Festival inspired by the work of the late earth-work star, Ana Mendieta.Mendez is happiest collaborating with artists in other disciplines, which explains why she has been creating her best work as part of three-year-old Psychic Youth, Inc. Psychic Youth is helping bridge Miami’s cultural subcultures by bringing dance, music, and visual arts together in the same space. More often than not, that’s a gallery space, as when the group took up a three-month residency at the De La Cruz Contemporary Art Space earlier this year with the piece, Tri. Count on Mendez and her co-conspirators to make the white cube quiver with life. Follow Ana Mendez on Facebook and follow Psychic Youth on MySpace. 1. List five things that inspire you. -Animals: For every piece, I assign an animal to what I’m doing and I take it from there, drawing on animal behavior. -The moon cycle: I am aware of the moon cycle for different performances and I use that to create rituals around what’s going on with the moon and with myself. -Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A: It’s the non-dance and I’m more drawn right now to not dancing. I don’t like to create dances that are beautiful or perfect. It’s just action. -David Lynch: I’m inspired by the music in his movies, by the way he works intuitively, and by the fact that he does transcendental meditation. -Native American rituals: A lot of my pieces are rituals that I take from Native American practices and from different pagan rituals. I create my own rituals based on what I’ve read and what I’ve participated in outside of my work. 2. What was your last big project? Tribute: A Summoning. My birthday is in January and a friend gave me a big MP3 CD. I was working my way through all the albums and about a month later, I was listening to Joe Meek at work and I instantly texted my friend and said, “Who is this?!” He told me, “He’s a producer from the ’50s and ’60s and he was crazy. He committed suicide.” I said, “Oh, I should do a séance performance.” I was texting with him the entire day. Then I get into the car, and I heard that it was Buddy Holly’s death anniversary. It was February 3 [the anniversary of Meek’s suicide as well]. It was crazy. We ended up doing the show the next year on his death anniversary with musicians dressed as all these Joe Meeks. We sampled his music and messed with it. 3. What’s your next big project? A new performance piece for Miami Light Project’s Here & Now 2011 based on the “Earth Body” sculptures and performances of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta. Her performance pieces were all very ritualistic. I see connections between her work and what I’ve been doing. When Psychic Youth was in residency at de la Cruz for three months, I saw that Rosa [de la Cruz] has a lot of Mendieta pieces there. We had talked about doing a tribute to Ana Mendieta there, but that never happened. Then Here & Now came around. It’s not a direct reference to her work like the Meek show was to Joe Meek. I’m working with the female visual artists. I find that the way their bodies interpret movement as non-dancers is bizarre and beautiful. When I work with dancers, they repeat back to me what I give them and it’s perfect. I’m like, Ugh. It’s boring. I give non-dancers the steps and they do something crazy, even though they think they’re doing exactly what I asked them. I look at it and I’m like: I couldn’t have invented that. 4. Why do you do what you do? I do it to get lost in the work. It’s like an exorcism. I like to have the experience of creating and going through the performance. It’s a big ritual for me. 5. What’s something you want Miami to know about you? I want audiences to know that the work is an entirely collaborative process. I guide the situation and then I have these different people say, “Oh, maybe we should have…alternative uses of light” or whatever. All that comes from a group effort. What’s something you don’t want Miami to know about you? I do not want audiences to know about my magic tricks. Originally published in Miami New Times in November 2010.