Mecca Vazie Andrews waits in the small covered patio outside of Stories Café in Echo Park. A man with brightly colored eye makeup announces the final act of the afternoon, a dance performance by Andrews, who smiles as she adjusts her lavender-tinted glasses. She moves to the front of the small congregation and begins to read a poem before stepping onto one of the empty chairs. Another step onto the next chair and she is straddling the two rows, legs splayed just wide enough for her beige shorts to peek out beneath her cool-toned dress. As she makes her way to the back, two thick, black lines can be seen tattooed on the back of her legs like the seams of vintage stockings.
After stepping off of the last chair near the patio’s exit, she gathers the crowd beyond the open gate that separates the space from the narrow alley directly behind Stories. From there, Andrews runs to pull her car forward out of the café parking lot on the other side of the alley and into the eagerly waiting half-circle of spectators. She manically opens all four doors after putting her vehicle in park. As the music starts, Andrews sprints around the car, crawling in and out of the back and front seats as she eats and tosses pieces of fruit. She suddenly hoists herself onto the hood, then the roof, while jumping up and down as she bends her knees in and out of squat-like moves. She leaps, lands on her back, grabs the hood and drags her body backwards and upside-down towards the floor, licking the metal beneath her fingers as she makes her way down. Once on the ground, she closes the door and throws herself into the car through the open window of the back seat. Andrews slithers the rest of her body into the car, appears in front of the steering wheel, starts the engine and drives off. Roaring applause follows.
This is Mecca: a dancer/choreographer/singer/songwriter of Trinidadian descent, who is proud of her title as an artist.
“I think it suits me. I prefer the term artist. When people introduce me as a dancer, I feel like it marginalizes what I’ve done and what my interests are. But we’re all artists. It’s better. It’s vague but specific at the same time, which is kind of how I live my life,” she tells me as we sit at Elabrew Coffee on Sixth Street a week after her electric performance.
Dance is the main bridge to other art forms Andrews has come to embrace, such as music and writing. She believes that “dance is a metaphor for life.”
Her artistic roots reach back to her parents, who encouraged her to be creative and free from a young age. Growing up in Pico Rivera, California as part of the only Trinidadian-American family in a predominantly Latino neighborhood encouraged her to focus on the interests she shared with her neighbors, rather than skin color and physical appearance, as she made friends with the people around her.
“These concepts of ‘other’ and so forth are things I understand, but growing up is more about seeing past all of those things and really engaging with people who you relate to, period. My close friends, we all had similar interests and similar approaches toward life and similar upbringings although we weren’t of the same skin tone or economic bracket. I think that that informs how I see people, and how I engage with people and how I create.”
This belief has carried into her choreography and her technique as a dance instructor for several studios and companies throughout Los Angeles, her main form of employment since she was fifteen. When arranging a dance, she believes that there should be a diversity of height, body type, and ethnicity among her selected performers. The creation of her company, The MOVEMENT Movement, is a celebration of that. Established in 2007, it offers her a way to share ideas about the desire to live in a more open-minded and accepting society through dance. She travels all over the world spreading her ideals, putting on shows similar to her performance at Stories and teaching internationally. She speaks about her beliefs and philosophy about dance at the events she is invited to.
“You can plant a lot of seeds in people’s minds of progressive thinking through the arts. To teach classes in underserved communities, while also teaching classes in affluent communities, and to create pieces that deal with concepts of feminism [and] activism and do them in places where people don’t necessarily expect those things to occur.”
Always a lover of punk culture, Andrews cites Crass, the anarchist band from 1970s England as her main musical influence. Another is Bratmobile. Her chance to work with its founder, Allison Wolfe, came by way of her involvement with their latest music project, Sex Stains. When singing for the band she uses her voice almost like an instrument, accompanying the sounds of drums and guitars with high and low riffs.
Andrews remains casual when chatting about the multitude of projects she has been a part of over the course of the last decade, including choreographing dances for many noted musical performers, such as Daft Punk.
“I like to keep busy,” says Andrews as she lists all of the projects she is currently working on: a movie called Panorama that will hopefully come out sometime next year and a big dance piece, which she wants to keep secret for now.
Andrews giggles as she puffs on a cigarette and lets her voice trail off. She likes to live in a world of possibilities.
“My brain is very active,” she enthuses, “There are a lot of things going on in this head of mine.”