At the beginning of "Truth Naked," the signature dance of Tom Evert and Susana Weingarten de Evert, two dancers connect for brief moments before returning to their separate spheres. But once they exchange masks, the dancers become more intimate and honest. They take turns clothing each other, ending in a fervent embrace.
As a symbol of the Everts' marriage, "Truth Naked" hews fairly close to reality. The Everts have overcome vast differences in personality and aesthetics and learned to share both stage and home for nearly 20 years, while propelling the dance company they co-direct.
It hasn't been easy. He's from Euclid; she's from Mexico City. He prefers fast movements, logic and symmetry. She's lyrical, emotional and doesn't mind chaos. But they've mastered the art of adaptation, combining their individual passions.
"There aren't many couples in dance and we know why," Susana says. "The intimacy is so great and it can become very challenging not to walk away from the relationship." The attraction was instantaneous when Tom and Susana met 28 years ago in Mexico City. Tom was performing there in the company of choreographer Paul Taylor. Tall and athletic, Tom embodied the Taylor style.
Susana, who was acting as the Paul Taylor Dance Co.'s tour guide, adored Tom's "objectivity" and his infinite ability to talk sports. For his part, Tom was drawn to what he calls Susana's "beauty in contrast to her toughness" her sensuality, flowing dark hair and her determination to study in New York.
The couple married in 1981. Their relationship grew more complicated when the couple had a baby a year later. Suddenly they had a child to consider while squeaking by as dancers in Manhattan. So they moved to Cleveland to be near Tom's family and start their own company.
For the first 10 years, Tom directed the troupe and Susana danced in it. Then Tom broke his hip. He spent his recovery period painting and sculpting, while Susana went from dancing in the company to co-directing it. Suddenly she was free to create work, not just perform it. She could give orders, but had trouble accepting her own authority.
"It was both wonderful and hard," she says.
When Tom returned to the stage, he found his wife sharing his former role. They renamed their company Tom and Susana Evert Dance Theatre. Together, they experimented with choreography that was more risqué, issue-driven and personal.
It was rough, of course, and things often got testy in the studio. But the Everts began making regular trips to a spiritual adviser, still a major presence in their lives, who helped them learn to respect each other's creativity and to defer to the stronger vision in a dispute.
"Truth Naked" was born during this period, as was "Separation," a dance proffering an alternative view of sin. "We were really starting to collaborate," Tom says. "Everything was maturing for us. It wasn't a burden to create a dance anymore."
Today the Everts and their newly renamed company, DANCEVERT, are entering what they predict will be their third era.' They hope to fill it with more projects like 'Confluence,' a flight-themed dance they created in partnership with two engineers from NASA as part of last summer's Ingenuity Festival.
Susana admits she wasn't excited about the project initially but saw her place in it immediately once she encountered Tom's nearly complete work. She crafted just the right role for herself, a lyrical presence in white who floats dove-like between her husband and three other dancers dressed in dark leotards. The piece, she says, ended up rounded, smooth and perfect, like a puzzle.
And because of Tom's presence, "I could, and can, have the security to be more vulnerable than otherwise," Susana says.