SuarezDanceTheater’s dance-making and teaching philosophy:
We aim to create a welcoming and democratic creative environment. We view our teaching and dance-making as forms of activism and a means for social change. The approach is holistic. We engage fellow students and collaborators somatically in order to access personal expressivity and physical empowerment. We believe that the creative process is a transformative experience – creating a community that did not exist before. In our classrooms risks are taken; both old and new ideas are challenged; untold stories are revealed – a place for shared discovery and exchange materializes. We are honored to facilitate that process.
On Being American
On Being American is a a participatory dance-theater work that investigates how we think of, relate to, and understand what American citizenship signifies. Premiering in November 2017 at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, On Being American weaves together gathered stories from local communities including students, immigrants, veterans, refugees, school teachers, musicians, and retirees. With funding from the California Arts Council and the Santa Monica Cultural Affairs, the Company is partnering with schools and community organizations during their 2018-19 season. They are bringing a series of on site workshops and performances. The project is designed to carry the voices of all who participate in the workshops and performances – so the work grows and evolves with each site while also creating an opportunity for exchange.
The importance of this project centers on both exposure and accessibility. Phase two is the embodiment of SuarezDanceTheater’s mission. They begin examining the unexpected – where dance can happen, who is dancing and why they are dancing. The aim is to create opportunities for active exchange of ideas and movement. They want to empower audiences by connecting them with their own expressivity. They aren’t telling them what it means to be an American – they are asking questions and sharing stories. This program is also another step in supporting the company’s community activism. They aim to activate spaces while connecting with different communities and increasing arts access and dance literacy.
MOTHER and The Motherhood Exchange Project:
As part of her process in building MOTHER (formerly Mother.F**ker.) Christine interviewed over 50 different mothers – in efforts to go deeper and allow the work to hold more voices and stories beyond her own. By the end of the piece, Christine is still searching for answers reconciling the complexity of contemporary motherhood. She turns to the “ocean of women.” Fifteen women, dancers and non-dancers, join her on stage. Together they dance. Together they embody an eternal ocean of women who are mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, step-mothers, teachers, nurses, and nannies. This ocean buoys Christine, sustaining her with the knowledge that she is not alone.
In partnership with The Flourish Foundation and the The HeArt Project, Christine Suarez collaborated with the Arleta Cal-Safe students to create The Motherhood Exchange Project over a period of 10 weeks. The Arleta Cal-Safe school is a continuation high school for parenting or pregnant young women. The students bravely and honestly investigated their experiences as mothers. The students, who were mostly new to performing, exposed their fears, frustrations, and struggles. They performed their original dance-theater work alongside MOTHER at one of the shows at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, CA. The Motherhood Exchange Project allowed these teens to build self-esteem, be heard and collaborate with their fellow students. The aim is to honor their individual stories and experiences. This project created an empowering exchange among the performers and the audience, to de-stigmatize what it means to be a “teen mom” and found ways to create identification and empathy.
“I’ve learned not to be afraid of what I am going through and not to hide who I really am.” -a student form Arleta Cal-Safe High School
DANCE FOR VETERANS
Initiated by Drs. Robert Rubin (Chief of Psychiatry at the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Administration Health Care System), and Donna Ames (Director of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center-PRRC) Christine in partnership with teaching-artists Kristen Smiarowski and Sarah Wilbur co-created Dance for Veterans, a dance program for severely mentally ill veterans. The teaching artists teach veterans throughout the Greater Los Angeles VA HealthCare System. They are also training clinicians the pedagogy of the Dance for Veterans program. Dance for Veterans classes offer veterans with various health conditions a vital and safe space to reclaim bodily authority, strengthen social bonds, improve wellness, and increase quality of life.
From 2008-2014, SuarezDanceTheater partnered with artworxLA (formerly the HeArt Project). artworxLA brings teaching artists into continuation high schools to combat the epidemic dropout crisis. Christine spends 10-weeks at each school to collaboratively create an original dance-theater work around a specific theme. Students learn the fundamentals of dance-theater making while also finding new pathways into personal expression. Ultimately the goal is to engage students creatively and pass on life skills of collaboration and stress management.
Jazz on the Lawn, community dance jam
Growing up in Baton Rouge where everyone freely dances together at any music event, Christine had been eager to bring that spirit to her community in Santa Monica. She proposed to Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division a semi-organized open dance event at one of the city’s summer concerts. They called it a “Community Dance Jam.” She invited concert attendees to to learn a circle dance and a line dance. Music (and dance) lovers of all ages participated. They even capped off the concert with a bona fide New Orleans style second-line dance, complete with flying handkerchiefs.
a beach dance
a beach dance is a mobile, public, community-based dance. Dancers and non-dancers from all walks of life were invited to learn a simple phrase and to join this guerilla-style performance. Performers were scattered along the shoreline for about 2 miles (from Rose Avenue to the SM pier). One dancer started dancing the phrase. She repeats it and another dancer joins her, then another and another. A dancing mob slowly accumulated as we progressed. The intent was to spread the joy of moving in a public space, reminding all that anyone and everyone can dance. It is designed to be permeable. The unexpected audience could choose to become a spontaneous addition to the dancing mob. To the group’s delight, many of the beach-goers along our route spontaneously joined us: kids, lifeguards, people of all ages and abilities. We’ve had the great fortune to set this in Santa Barbara during the SB aDapt Festival in 2011.