So you think you're having a difficult time getting ahead financially in high-priced San Diego? Here's an exercise in sobriety: Imagine being a single mother working for minimum wage in the third most expensive city in the nation.
We don't often hear about the struggles-and triumphs-of single moms. But Gina Angelique, artistic director and choreographer at Eveoke Dance Theatre, aims to change that with the premiere of Hips. The new documentary dance production, opening Jan. 20 at Eveoke's new Tenth Avenue Theatre in East Village, reveals the common joys and struggles of 14 lower-income women who, with minimal resources available to them, raise their children without the help of a partner.
"Here at Eveoke, over half of our community comes from single-mother households," said Angelique. "It's remarkable how little we hear about [single motherhood]. It's so common it's taken for granted, as if it's something you should just be able to do."
Yet the reality is a path filled with difficulty, said Angelique, who became a mom in 2002. The experience of raising son Shealyn with husband and business partner Christopher Hall is "amazing-it rocks your world," she said.
"It made me reflect more about people who do it by themselves," she added. "If you can pull it off well, you are truly heroic."
In Hips, Angelique reveals the hidden lives of these "unsung heroes" through interviews with diverse women in the community-mothers on welfare, working mothers, lesbian mothers, adoptee mothers and mothers from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Along with Ericka Moore, she used the recordings of these dialogues to create an ambient soundtrack for the dance production, which Angelique likened to a Dali painting-beautiful, absurd, surprising and bizarre.
"I am always trying to do something no one else would dare do," said Angelique. "What could be less glamorous than single mothers? How can I take what is seemingly mundane and make it theatrical, compelling? How can I take the everyday lives of poor single mothers and turn that into engaging theater?"
With this production, Angelique hopes to spur political action. The company will ultimately present a letter to the San Diego City Council on behalf of single mothers, seeking policies that address the issues illuminated in the performance.
"If there's one thing single mothers have, it's their priorities straight. They know how to line things up," said Angelique. "As a society, there's one thing we don't have-and that's our priorities straight. We don't learn from the people right in front of us who are doing really hard things."
She cites city funding as an example of misaligned priorities: taking the politically advantageous position of pursuing funding for police over community programs that support struggling families. "If you fund after-school programs, you won't need the police," said Angelique. "You help parents, and their kids are not going to cause problems later. We're always looking to spend money on the remedy, as opposed to spending money at the seed of the problem."
Angelique has long been interested in providing a forum for women's voices and found the documentary format ideal in understanding women's true stories, circumstances and needs. Hips is the third in a series of "docudance" works about women, following on the heels of Women Rebels in 2002 and Mothers in 2003.
Angelique hopes to foster a greater sense of community.
"I want you to leave the theater a little bit different," she said. "The number one thing I want to happen is if you see a mother at a grocery store with three kids by herself, do you say, "Do you need some help?' or do you keep going? I imagine people seeing this show feeling more of a connection to single mothers, feeling part of their village. They may be a stranger to me, but they're making decisions in the community we share-we are all intrinsically connected."Hips previews Jan. 18 and 19, opens Jan. 20 and runs through Feb. 13 at the Tenth Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave. in East Village-Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20. Call 619-238-1153 or visit www.eveoke.org.