Artist in Residence 2015, Christine Suarez
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
March 23, 2015
I plan on making a duet for two women inspired by the Book of Ruth. I imagine it will be around 20 minutes in length. I’m still in the reading, thinking and dreaming stage of my process. I will begin rehearsals in early May. I’m eager to get into the studio with these two dancers to begin our physical investigation.
Months ago my neighbor happened to tell me about a song her Rabbi sings. Ruth’s words:
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.”
It brought tears to me eyes. What beautiful faith! What conviction! That was my entry point for this work – moved by a complete willingness to give everything up for another.
I find the story of Ruth and Naomi fascinating in many ways. I’m deeply moved by Ruth’s unrelenting loyalty and by Naomi’s feelings of forsaken abandonment from God. I wonder how these can exist side by side. What is each of their motivations? Ruth expresses her emotions nakedly to Naomi – pledging her undying devotion and willingness to give everything up for her. And Naomi basically ignores her or rather does not accept Ruth’s pledges as any comfort. Naomi repeatedly publicly expresses how she is alone (“the hand of the Lord is against me”). The end of the story does not resolve this tension. It is left very open to interpretation.
I am curious about the structural composition to the Book as well. There are two moments of formal poetry within the Book: Ruth’s devotional speech and Naomi’s declaration of desertion upon entering Bethlehem. How are these two moments of poetry in dialogue with each other?
I’m reading many interpretation of this story: Jewish scholars, humanity scholars and Christian scholars. I’m looking at classical art inspired by the story including works by William Blake. The more I read, the more questions I have. Is this a political parable? Is it a story of mystical symbolism? What is the significance of the poetry vs. the prose within the Book?
How are these questions going to translate into a dance-theater work? I don’t totally know. But I do know that as a creator I need to deeply connect with my subject matter. I can relate more to Naomi’s struggle and her blindness to the gifts that Ruth is offering her. I have felt very, very alone at points in my life unable to connect with God (and other people). In fact I have at times felt like God was punishing me. At this point I am most interested in the relationship of Ruth and Naomi and each of their internal emotional landscapes. Together with the dancers, we will start by finding ways to physicalize these emotional landscapes. We will work towards translating the relationship of these two women into the corporeal using space, time and sound. I can’t wait to share more of my process with you. It is such a privilege. Thank you!
If you have any thoughts or responses, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samples of Christine’s previous work:
From Mother, Photo by Christine Suarez
From Mother, Photo by Lori Teague
From Motherhood Redux, Photo by Thomas Cox
From Dances in Public Parks, Photo by Paul Antico
From Spark and Echo Arts: The joy of our heart has ceased; Our dance has turned into mourning.
An Excerpt from Mother
Follow the development of Christine’s project by reading this in addition to her second and third posts as a 2015 Artist in Residence.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.