L.A. artist choreographs the highs and lows of motherhood
Christine Suarez, Los Angeles performing artist and choreographer, recalls a conversation in which a 40-year-old single mom friend of hers told her that motherhood meant that from now on, everything she did would have to be half-assed.
“That really struck me,” Suarez says. “The tension when you become a parent … My house is never going to be really clean ever again, everything’s not going to be in its place ever again, I’m never gonna spend two hours getting dressed to go out. It changes, it shifts things.”
The anecdotal stories of fellow mothers helped to inspire Saurez’s dance/theater performance, “MOTHER.”, which will debut May 3-4 at Motion Pacific Studio in Santa Cruz.
Suarez says she struggles for perfection in balancing parenthood and artistry, which both play out in “MOTHER.” in a turbulent and comical self-portrait. The show, which she says developed as a result of the birth of her son and the death of her nephew, begins as a lonely, frazzled, uncoordinated Suarez stumbles onto the stage clutching a mess of baby gear.
“I’m all by myself, I’m dragging, I’m weighted, I’m burdened,” she says.
Then Suarez’s character begins to incorporate the stories and relationships of fellow mothers.
“At the end of the piece, I’m dancing hopefully with a group of mothers from the community,” she says. “What I realize is that I don’t mother alone.”
Suarez says that when you become a mother, you enter into what she calls “an ocean of women” who help you to realize you are not alone in the experience.
Throughout the two-year course of perfecting “MOTHER.”, Suarez interviewed more than 50 fellow mothers, incorporating their stories and lessons into the piece. “I started to think, ‘I know my story and I’m telling my story, but what are other women’s stories?’ I incorporated those and it has really enriched the work.”
For Suarez, the initial transition into motherhood was not easy, she says. She felt like she was crazy, because women in our culture are taught that motherhood is the enriching, fulfilling, graceful road to womanhood. “The transition of becoming a mother was really hard for me,” she says. “The struggle for me is to hang onto that perfectionist, ‘I can do it all,’ thing. And I’m like, ‘You know what? I can’t. Some nights we’re gonna eat macaroni and cheese out of a box and that’s just gonna be good enough.’”
The Santa Monica mom points out that, similar to Santa Cruz, people of her demographic—which, she defines as white, middle class mothers—are expected to adhere to a particular way of life.
“There is this trend, this movement, back to the old school, crunchy, everything’s homemade type of mom,” she says. “There’s extra pressure of, ‘We eat all organic food and my child has never had sugar, blahblahblah,’ and it’s like what? There’s that question of balance, of ‘Where do I sit in this mom world and does it really matter?’ So, the half-assed [comment] was really great. It’s like, ‘Oh, right. Yeah,’” she laughs.
While in some ways “MOTHER.”’s jokes and disasters will translate particularly well to parents, Suarez says it is also a universal tale of transition.
“I hope that everyone can relate to this experience of change and the process of change because really [“MOTHER.”] is about transformation,” she says. “It’s turbulent. It’s funny, but it’s also really moving. I think it’s a good ride.”
Suarez cautions readers that “MOTHER.” is not a show designed for kids. In fact, “MOTHER.” was initially titled “Mother. Fucker.” until, after much deliberation, Suarez convinced herself to go with the milder title so as not to be off-putting to the more PC masses, or distract anyone from the show’s greater content. She recalls sending the press release for Mother. F*cker (read: The PR title did include an asterisk) to an unnamed Santa Cruz journalist prior to the show’s original 2012 run in the Fringe Festival. “He replied to me almost immediately, ‘Stop sending me your potty-mouth crap,’” Suarez says with a laugh. “So, now, it’s just ‘mother.’ ‘MOTHER.,’” she shouts.
Since she was young, Suarez has participated in the performing arts, but she says this show in particular brought dance and theater together for her.
“What I love about dance is you start with ideas and bodies and go from there,” she says. “It’s taken me a long time to figure out how to intersect these two conventions of moving and the craft of choreography, and the craft of telling a story. This work has been a big breakthrough for me. It clicked, and I realized, ‘Oh, this is how you do it.’ It’s been really great.”
Suarez says perhaps the most important role of art is the conversations it can spark.
“The last work I made was about female orgasm, and I feel like art is an opportunity to have a conversation,” she says. “What I love about this piece is talking to people afterward and hearing their experiences. ... The beautiful thing about performance and art-making is that it is an opportunity to talk about something you don’t normally talk about, so I’m excited to have that in Santa Cruz.”
“MOTHER.” runs at 8 p.m. May 3-4 at Motion Pacific Studio, 131 Front St., Ste. E, Santa Cruz. $16/adv, $18/door. Student/senior discount available. 457-1616. Visit motionpacific.com for tickets and details.
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