Sandra Portal-Andreu on Multi-Media Performance CIRCA/MIA

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At 8 p.m. May 13 and May 14 at The Perez Art Museum Miami, Sandra Portal-Andreu and Dale Andree will present climate conscious dance works. You can RSVP for the free MDC Live Arts Event here. 

Dale Andree will present Such Rooted Things. A work conceived and drawn from interviews with ten women from different backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities across Miami-Dade County who are experiencing the effects of climate change in their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile Sandra Portal-Andreu will present  CIRCA/MIA.  Portal-Andreu hopped on to The Jitney to explain what these nights are all about for her.

What can audiences expect from your performances at PAMM?

Sandra Portal-Andreu: From concerns and worries about their future to offerings of hope and solutions, CIRCA is a film that amplifies the visions and voices of our youth. The animated film is based on children’s artworks that they created depicting Miami in 2050. What these children, ages 7-18, shared was eye-opening. It’s a powerful message that may hit some of us quite hard, but it’s truthful and honest. My hope is that it will inspire action and change.

MIA counters this with a performance by 6 mothers (including myself), whose children participated in the project. I wanted to bring a sense of support, of care, of nurturing to the work as a response to how our children are feeling about the future of their city.

I am excited to present this project live, in-person, and outdoors. I hope that the audience will enjoy experiencing live performance in one of Miami’s beautiful spaces. I would love for them to take in the backdrop of Miami’s skyline while viewing a site-specific performance. Perhaps, gain an appreciation of our delicate city.

There are many layers to this work. From the dance to animated film by Brenna Verner, to live music from Afrobeta and projection mapping from SeanWasHere, CIRCA/MIA will encompass the visions of our children’s future in a visually interactive way.

What specifically inspired the work you will be performing?

Being a mother of two boys, Julian (11) and Gabo (8), I have always been worried about what kind of environmental legacy we are leaving behind. Here in Miami, we are seeing the effects of climate change firsthand, from floods after heavy rains, to dying fish in the bay. The adults aren’t the only ones witnessing this, our kids are too.

This idea inspired the first part of the project, CIRCA. I wanted to give children like mine the opportunity to share their concerns, their hopes, and their perception of how they see the future of their city, particularly in the year 2050. The reason why I chose 2050 is because by that time, they would essentially be my age, in their early 40’s.

Too often the conversation about climate change has been centered around the adults in the room. However, we are starting to see younger voices become part of it. Miami is considered ground zero in the climate crisis and the purpose of the project is to highlight specifically the children who live in Miami-Dade.

The performance MIA will be presented by the mothers (including myself) whose children were part of the project. These mothers are former local dancers such as Liza Carmona, Valerie Barreiro, Krista Miller, Jordan Levin, and Shana Wexler-Cherry. This performance is a response to our children’s insight and explores ideas of the generational passage of wisdom, resilience, and responsibility. How are we (mothers) preparing our children to take on the challenges that lie ahead? What are we doing now to lay the foundation of their future? What simple things can we do today to better our community?

Can you walk us through your process of creating these works?

When applying to LALA’s EcoCultura Initiative, I knew that I wanted to create a work that addressed climate change but through a different perspective. I kept thinking about my kids and their peers. Wondering what they would say in regards to the topic.

Last year on Earth Day, I sat my boys down and had a conversation. I asked them the questions:

“What do you know about climate change”

“How do you feel about it”?

“And, imagine yourself 30 years from now, if we don’t solve this problem, how do you envision Miami in 2050?”

“What are your solutions for climate change right now?”

Afterwards, I asked them to draw something that represented their opinions. Throughout the pandemic, I went on to have 35 more conversations with children throughout Miami-Dade County via Zoom and they sent their artwork in. After editing their conversations down, I brought in animator, Brenna Verner, to help me create the film based on the children’s artworks. I also brought in Afrobeta to create an original score for the film.

For some time, I wasn’t sure where I would present this work. Most places weren’t open, available or even considering presenting work. Once I visited Maurice Ferré Park, I immediately gravitated to Jaume Plensa’s sculpture. The childlike head looking out in the bay seemed almost symbolic and relevant to this work. As soon as I knew that  I could present the film at PAMM and activate the outdoor space, I began visualizing the movement as a procession that honors the space, our kids, and our place as mothers. That’s when the idea of bringing the mothers into the work felt more concrete.

All in all, my research for each project involves a series of conversations, site-visits, and planning with my collaborators. I like to have some sort of basic structure for the work so that there’s room for creative license. I often ask… What am I trying to convey? What do I want to the audience to leave with? What do I want my collaborators to experience from the project? How does the work inform the conversation? Am I bringing a different perspective?

How did living in Miami influence these works?

 CIRCA/MIA is a community-based, community-informed, and community-driven work. The very essence of this piece is about our place in this city. Who we are? What role do we play? What can we do to elevate it?

Miami most certainly influenced this work because it is driven by the voices who live in it, who are growing up here, and who want to make this place their home in the future.

Being a mother raising children in Miami, I can honestly say that it may pose its challenges but I couldn’t find a better place. My kids are connected to their community in a unique way. They attend public schools, go to their city park, and play sports there. They know their neighbors. And they are growing up appreciating the diversity in our people, food, and culture that is so unique to Miami.

Do you have any artistic plans for the rest of 2021 that you can share?

I created with fellow artist Mateo Serna Zapata a film, Superficie, which was recently chosen for the PBS Filmmaker Project. We are thrilled to be part of their 4th season and it’ll be shown this summer.

For CIRCA/MIA, my goals ahead are to continue sharing the film to community organizations who focus on climate education so that perhaps they can incorporate it into classrooms or use it as a teaching tool. I’d love to submit the film to various animated film festivals. And if we continue opening, in the fall, I would like to present this work again.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits The Jitney blog. He is the author of the novel The End of the Century.