What does it mean to be American?
Christine Suarez addresses the zeitgeist of the last few years through her new dance-performance piece, Family Dinner.
Its creation process stemmed from her recent re-reading of The Book of Ruth from the Old Testament, and the feelings brought about during the 2016 presidential election.
Suarez explores the intersection of themes she found in the book of Ruth—immigration, power, and hope — and their intersection with public engagement, to create a dance performance.
Family Dinner formed from a series of fortunate events.
Suarez had applied for a grant from the City of Santa Monica to fund creative productions for the community.
“The city is extremely generous when it comes to funding the arts,” she said.
Around the same time Suarez had begun re-reading the Book of Ruth, an influential reading to her, she had previously created a dance-performance piece around it, but this time she said she wanted to see how the book applied contemporarily.
As aforementioned the 2016 election stirred everyone emotionally-and in all different direction. Suarez described how she would find herself in Facebook-comment fights with people as far removed as someone her step dad went to high school with.
“Finally I said, let’s get a cup of coffee,” she said.
Suarez made a point about how easy social media made it to dehumanize a voice, but said you can’t get angry at someone while their serving you their moms macaroni. This struck a cord in Suarez. She sensed the lack of togetherness going on in America, but even just her own community, she said “I thought to myself, how can I incorporate the grant I received, plus addressing these feelings of isolation?” And thus, Family Dinner was born.
Suarez and her group hosted a series of three public potlucks in which they read the Book of Ruth, and then responded to a few playful prompts and topics.
“I asked them each, what is most important to you; a) following the rules, b) working hard, or c) subverting the system?”
Naturally this sparked healthy debate, all of which Suarez added to her choreography. The next step is opening her performance piece to the public and as opposed to her normal six or so months to put together a performance, Suarez has done it in just five weeks.
“I didn’t want there to be space between the public potlucks and the performances, because then it becomes, ‘those potlucks we did half a year ago’”.
Thus, next month Suarez and her group will perform four times, all in locations which emulate community and togetherness themselves—the first performance takes place at Camera Obscura, an eclectic artists workshop here in Santa, the next two will be held in recreational rooms at local Santa Monica parks, and the last will be held in Suarez’s own home.
“I didn’t want to have pulled so much inspiration from the community, and then turn it around and hold in these private venues” Suarez said.
Each performance follows with a potluck, open to all the public. There, prompts and discussions similar to those from the original standalone public potlucks will be held.
The Santa Monica events follow and are influenced by her past works.
One of her first solo projects in New York received a lot of backlash. Suarez was accused of merely aiming to shock audiences with her work. She said those misinterpretations of her explorative piece encouraged her to develop a unique aspect of community outreach into her later projects.
Mother.Father. is a piece on families in the LBTGQ community, and so for the “score” of her dance, she used recordings from conducted interviews with families. Another unique aspect of Suarez’s work came from a realization she had after moving to California.
“In New York, much of the infrastructure where you saw dancing was ascribed, in L.A. there’s not as much infrastructure to support the number of performers, so there’s a lot of ingenuity as to where the performances take place.”
On that note, Suarez had the idea to perform Mother.Father. in liberal places of worship.
“I wanted to bring the art to them, and not wait for them to have to come” Suarez explained. This same avant-garde creativity and communication is even more pronounced with Suarez’s upcoming Family Dinner.
Visit http://www.suarezdance.org for more information,
June 3rd: Workshop with showing at Camera Obscura, 1450 Ocean Avenue
June 4th: Performance & Potluck at Virginia Avenue Park
June 10th: Performance & Potluck at Reed Park
June 11th: Performance & Potluck, home-hosted