By Ciara LaVelle
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"We will be presenting artists from 16 countries, including several from Cuba," says Oquet, her eyes crinkling behind her trademark cat's-eye glasses.
In her own work, the 59-year-old Dominican-born talent often references Elegguá, the Afro-Cuban orisha who guards the crossroads. And like that deity, Oquet has spent her life helping others erase boundaries.
She spent her 20s traveling the globe, from Santo Domingo to New York to London, where she met her husband, William Keddell, a New Zealand artist and filmmaker. She spent five years in Auckland and then settled in Miami in 1988. All of that wandering became both a prism for her art and a motivator to bring global arts to town.
With that in mind, in 2003 she opened Edge Zones, a Wynwood nonprofit space that featured local and international talents. After sponsoring an exchange with Dominican performance artists, Oquet began thinking about two gaps in Miami's scene: a lack of programming during the dog days of summer, and a shortage of opportunities for performance artists.
"I felt that Miami was lacking an event that exclusively focused on the genre," she says.
So Oquet created the performance festival and debuted it in August. More than a thousand visitors last year ended up viewing video installations, music, poetry, and other nontraditional art.
"It was a really excellent festival," says Irene Loughlin, a Canadian artist who performed. "It also helped create a dialogue among the artists, many of whom are collaborating together on new projects."
This year, Oquet has expanded to a free, monthlong offering beginning June 3 and culminating with a four-day event June 27 to 30. Ever the globe-trekker, Oquet smiles wide while counting off the international delegation converging on the Magic City this June.
"We have artists who are coming from all over Latin America, the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, and the Czech Republic," she says. "These artists will present challenging politically and socially provocative works you won't experience elsewhere in Miami."
Many artists toil away in the dark shadows of obscurity for decades. Not Rosie Herrera. The dancer, choreographer, singer, and renaissance woman gets what she wants. Proof: She debuted on the New York City stage only three years after launching her namesake dance company.
"The most I can hope for is that people connect with it, that people laugh and people cry," the 29-year-old says of her NYC experience. "People were happy to see some color onstage, some warmth. We brought the Miami heat in a big way."
Herrera has been staging shows since she was a kid and nabbed her first professional role at 15, when she was cast as World's Shortest Showgirl in Néstor Cabell's production of El Solar del Paladar y la Chiva de Escobar. After graduating from Miami Springs Senior High, she went on to New World School of the Arts, where she earned a BFA in dance performance in 2006.
Since graduating, she's been producing a unique style of gender-bending, emotionally raw choreography. Herrera's work inspires disparate feelings in her audience — joy and despair, violence and tenderness, confusion and clarity. Pieces such as Pity Party and Dining Alone explore the emotional intricacies in seemingly rote aspects of life: aging and eating.
"My process is still evolving," she says. "I think with every piece I create, I learn a little bit more about what my process is really like."
If her schedule is any indication, the evolution never ends. Herrera recently completed a teaching session at Tampa's University of South Florida. Her company is preparing a mini-tour of Dining Alone and will visit the American College Dance Festival in Tampa in March and New York City's prestigious Baryshnikov Arts Center in mid-April. Afterward, she will be in residence at the American Dance Festival for six weeks.
Still, Herrera remains modest about her role in Miami's dance evolution.
"I'm really just a part of it," she says. "I'm not the leader, not the main thing, just a part of a really big change in our community."
No matter where her talent takes her, Herrera is all about her hometown.
"The way that the light comes through in Miami, there's an energy here, a vibrancy here," she says. "There's a hum — no, not even. It's like a yell that is constant in Miami that is so bountiful and so full of information. It really connects me with this deep, honest place within myself. Then I can really create movement from this authentic space."
Andrew Hevia has made his mark by filming some of the city's most misunderstood or under-recognized assets, from the ins and outs of Art Basel to the explosive escapades of Meatball (AKA Robert Lorie) and Justin Long of the art collective Funner Projects.
Sitting outside Panther Coffee in pressed slacks and a button-up shirt, Hevia's look doesn't scream "Miami artist." But then again, what qualities characterize local creatives?
"The best way I can describe the Miami experience is, whenever I'm here, I'm not convinced I fit in here, despite the fact that I'm born and raised here. And when I leave, I realize I don't fit anywhere," the 28-year-old filmmaker says. "We all feel this way. The thing we share in common is that nobody has anything in common. It's an odd shared trait."