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Emory Dance Program professor, alumna revisit first collaboration in 'Rule of Thumb'

“How do we live in our bodies?” is the central question asked in “Rule of Thumb,” presented March 1-3 by the Emory Dance Program.

In 1993, newly hired faculty member Lori Teague cast Emory College undergraduate Christine Suarez 94C in Teague’s first choreographed work at Emory, “Rule of Thumb.” The piece humorously blended theater and dance to explore the power dynamics that pervade heterosexual relationships in a patriarchal culture. Now, 25 years later, the two are revisiting their first collaboration. 

“How do we live in our bodies?” is the central question asked by Teague and Suarez in “Rule of Thumb,” presented by the Emory Dance Program in performances March 1- 3 in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts Dance Studio.

This 2018 version “examines how feminist perspectives have changed and are more awakened by the intersectionality of gender, age and race,” explains Teague, now an associate professor and director of the Emory Dance and Movement Studies Program. “We are looking more specifically at how our gender identities are shaped. How are bodies perceived and how do we inhabit our interior landscapes where the physical realities of oppression are embodied?”

The project was reinvigorated when Suarez, now based in California and artistic director of SuarezDanceTheater, approached Teague about collaborating again. In initial conversations, the two naturally drifted back to their first work together, “Rule of Thumb,” a pivotal creative experience for both.

“It was the first time I saw dance connect with an issue that was important to me,” says Suarez. “It was funny and smart. It was the first time I was a part of a dance that pushed the limits of how many define the form.” 

Their creative partnership is a mutually beneficial one, pulling from the theatricality of Suarez’ work and Teague’s decades of experience in dance. 

“I am thrilled to work differently and with an alum who inspired me when she was 20,” says Teague. “I don’t use text often. I don’t build from narrative forms. For both of us, this exchange is an opportunity for artistic growth, procreation of the creative process, while developing a deeper understanding of collaboration with different communities.”

Since the summer of 2016, Suarez and Teague have facilitated several “Body Stories/Gender Fluidity” community workshops in Atlanta and Santa Cruz, California, including one that took place in adjunct professor Ken Hornbeck’s theater course, Human Health Through Performance.  In these workshops, Suarez and Teague collected stories and led movement improvisations with participants to aid in their creative process.

“Sharing the space with a diverse group of bodies builds important connections for expanding empathy,” Teague explains. “Every rehearsal is a series of structured improvisations where we gain access to natural states of being — those that emerge from authenticity, movement that unveils the unique textures and complexities of our gender identity.”

The Emory Dance Program presents “Rule of Thumb” by Christene Suarez and Lori Teague. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, with an additional 2 p.m. performance on Saturday.

Tickets are available from the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404-727-5050, or online. Visit the Emory Dance Program website for more information about this and other events.

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