evidence of humanity
Funded by a travel grant from the University of Iowa, Suzanne Ryanstrati traveled to El Potrero, New Mexico. Here she visited El Santuario de Chimayo and the surrounding area including the pilgrimage road. Located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this area has a long history of healing. Her data-gathering included allowing her to be fully present in the outdoor and indoor space, documenting pilgrimage stories, interviewing the Priest, obtaining books, photographs and videos, and recording evidence of miracles and prayers requesting miracles
Ryanstrati lead the dancers through a journaling process in which she asked them to write about items they own with meaning (there are items left by pilgrims), hopes/prayers (these were written on the grounds), about meaningful material goods (these were left behind at the church), their cultural backgrounds (diverse walkers) and if they knew anyone who was sick/injured/struggling/in the military/trying to have a baby etc. (evidence from the site).
These, along with the on-site data-gathering were combined into different sections of the dance. Music from local Spanish guitarists and commissioned Native American Flute player were used along with a recorded text of prayers (taken from El Santuario and the dancers) in three languages. Objects left as evidence of miracles by the pilgrims were duplicated and incorporated as hanging sculptures and props carried by the dancers: baby shoes, empty frames, crutches and rosaries.
"Historical accuracy was very important, as was developing a connection between the humanity at El Santuario and the dancers. More than a church building, it is a reflection of faith, culture, hope, sacrificing and thanksgiving." Suzanne Ryanstrati