Queer choreographer Sonya Tayeh has had an incredibly successful career with Emmy nominations for her work on “So You Think You Can Dance” and choreographing for artists like Madonna, Florence and the Machine and Kylie Minogue. Now, she has a new original show, “You’ll Still Call Me By Name,” an incredibly personal piece inspired by her self-described “jagged” relationship with her mother.
“The challenges were many,” Sonya said. “Staying present inside of the pain while cracking it open to reveal more. Pushing passed the exhaustion when as an artist sometimes you just don’t want to face the truth. Facing the real truth—that was the real challenge.”
“You’ll Still Call Me By Name” is darkly moody and yet filled with the lightness and emboldening of self-acceptance. The push and pull of Sonya’s love of herself and the love of her disapproving mother is at the center of the show, at times asking the audience to choose sides, at others dispelling the idea altogether.
Named after a lyric in one of the show’s original songs from musical duo The Bengsons, Sonya said the phrase resonated with her very deeply.
“Because to me it validates my belief in having a cellular desire for familial acceptance,” Sonya said. “No matter what trauma has occurred I will still call you my sister, my brother for example. The bond is so deep. It’s a blood to blood bond that holds our name.”
The show is intensely emotional with a lot of struggle, beautifully performed by a dance ensemble, live musicians and two vocalists, one of which is Sonya’s partner, Joanna Lampert. Sonya credits their hard work and dedication (the dancers have been rehearsing four days a week since September) to helping her discover her bravery through the creation of “You’ll Still Call Me By Name.”
“I felt that I embodied bravery in the most fearful times,” Sonya said. “I thought I was brave before this. Now I know I am.”
“You’ll Still Call Me By Name” opened with two sold-out performances at the New York Live Arts Theater last weekend, and will play tonight and tomorrow with a special talk-back after the Saturday night performance.
“This process has made me want to speak louder, try harder, demand more, and never take conditional love as an offering,” Sonya said. “That’s what I hope people see in this piece—a voice to be heard.”
Tickets to “You’ll Still Call Me By Name” are available from New York Live Arts.