Choreographer Ana Mendez Investigates the Mysterious Death of Visual Artist Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta fell to her death from her bedroom window in New York City one early morning in September, 1985. The acclaimed visual artist was heard crying out "No, no, no" before her body landed on a roof below. Her husband, who was with her in the bedroom, was acquitted of her murder.

Cuban-American choreographer Ana Mendez explores the mystery of Mendieta's death in her new work, "The Body Is Present" at the Miami Made Festival this weekend. According to Mendez, Mendieta's death was foreshadowed in the artist's early work.  "I've been inspired by her more violent pieces," Mendez explains, "by the photographs of rape scenes and crime scenes."

"The Body Is Present" is set entirely within the trajectory of

Mendieta's fall. "I took this idea of life flashing before your eyes

right before you die and made it into a dream she might have had while

she was falling," the choreographer says. "It's like a bizarre dream

that doesn't really have a story, but you feel the arc of that fall. It

gets a little violent and then there is the euphoria of falling and

then, nothing."

The mystery is not the only thing that drew Mendez to Mendieta. She sees

echoes of her own family's stories in the life of the visual artist.

Mendieta and her sister left the island as children in part of the

Catholic Church's Pedro Pan (Peter Pan) initiative to resettle Cuban

youth in the United States. Mendez's mother left Cuba as a young woman

in the 1960s. Her mother's sister met a tragic death.

To highlight those connections, Mendez will perform in the dress her

mother wore in a clandestine wedding ceremony to Mendez's father, just

before he left the island on a raft. The rest of the dancers will also

be dressed in Cuban-style party dresses from the 1960s.

Mendez will be the only professional dancer on stage: as part of the

tribute to Mendieta, the rest of the company will be made up of women

visual artists. Working with these non-dancers established another

connection. Mendieta was famous for her earthworks, through which she

left the imprint of her body in natural settings in trees and soil.

"I can feel the tie between her manipulating the earth and me

manipulating the dancers," she says. "I'm working with visual artists'

bodies and they are not completely comfortable with that."

The Miami Made Festival runs from March 4th through 6th at the Carnival

Studio at the Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd). Ana Mendez's "The Body

Is Present" will be performed at 10:15 p.m. on Friday and 4:15 p.m. on

Saturday. Tickets are free. Call 305-949-6722 or visit

--Celeste  Fraser Delgado of

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Miami New Times staff