Christine Suarez had a dream.
A pair of scissors was suspended over her head; she wore a white skirt that fell past her feet.
The floor was white, the ceiling was white and every wall was white. Frida Kahlo watched from the corner and sat whispering: “Vamos. Vamos.”
Kahlo then began to paint Suarez’s skirt, using an array of loud, dazzling colors — bright oranges and blues. “I am me and not me at the same time,” Suarez concluded from this dream, illustrating her own inner conflicts between faith, marriage, motherhood and personal sanity.
“In order to make sense of all this shit, I had to make a dance.”
Suarez is a 1994 Emory alumna who now lives in Los Angeles.
She created “Mother,” a solo work, to reflect her rocky transition into motherhood, and performed this piece at Emory’s “Alumni in Concert” presentation on Saturday, Feb. 28. Suarez presented “Mother” through movement, narration, improvisation — and props.
“At this point in the show, if I had a Hollywood budget, there would be tension between the upstage and the downstage.” Suarez said. “At this point in the show, if I had a Hollywood budget, there would be a hologram of pregnant Christine.”
Suarez didn’t have a Hollywood budget and she was successful without it.
She used thin, wooden poles to create divisional tension onstage and used her powerful narration to suggest the presence of holograms and water.
She struggled in balancing baby blocks and voice recordings of her son, reflecting her flustered attempt to make sense of the world and everything it had thrown toward her.
In the second half of her performance, Suarez removed a patch from her apron-like dress to reveal a drawing by her son, Jack, now five years old.
When asked what he wanted to draw for his mother, Jack responded, “I am going to draw a shampoo bottle at a party.”
Jack corrected himself: “I am going to draw a happy shampoo bottle at a party.”
In her piece, Suarez presents life experiences common to many women.
Her outlook on these events was generally positive, sometimes dramatized for humor and sometimes for legitimacy; this perspective was what ultimately held her audience’s attention throughout her performance.
Although the humorous moments were entertaining, the most compelling parts of Suarez’s piece were the most genuine.
Her frustration toward alcoholism — she blames four individual beers — her excitement before moving to Los Angeles and her devastation upon losing her nephew were all moments that the audience members commonly understood.
“Mother” was all the more alluring because Suarez proved able to take her audience through her personal journey.
Her work followed her introspection and exploration in search of the answer to the question, “Why do we make dances?” (Her aforementioned response was, “In order to make sense of all this shit.”)
Through investigating her potential, her limits, her lifestyle and the overarching “I am me and not me at the same time” Kahlo dilemma, Suarez was able to create a dance fueled by her own perspective.
She described feeling immense pressure to create a “brilliant” piece in her little free time and little studio time, and ended up with a highly personal statement.
(Regardless, Suarez claims that while working on “Mother,” she still managed to cook dinner for her family almost every night.)
Suarez’s piece may appear brilliant to some and not to others.
Her work is on its way to brilliancy, and will arrive as Suarez lives more of her life and can even more effectively provide her audience with her own sense of closure among her most authentic experiences, because it requires simply more life to craft works such as hers.
As time goes on, the performance will continue to develop, becoming even more thought-provoking, entertaining and compelling as time goes on.
Suarez is on her way to a very powerful, meaningful work that can impart the power of her experiences to the audience.
– By Emily Sullivan, Staff Writer