Camille D.C. Sutton is an artist and professional dancer in Dallas, TX, where she studied English and Dance at Southern Methodist University. While she pursues her career in the arts, she uses her creative gifting as a freelance content developer and inbound marketing strategist. In her free time she enjoys spending all of her earnings at Half Priced Books, and scheming about travel and film with her husband and fellow creative, Tyler Sutton.
On the backyard deck, over a perfectly satisfying chicken salad croissant sandwich from religiously frequented, Goodfriend Package in East Dallas, we pulled up around a fire pit to talk about waiting periods, career stalls and the artist’s identity. ClearPath.Life Founder/Contributor, Jordan Sutton, asked ClearPath.Life Creative Director, Camille some questions about her faith and field in the arts.
JS: What kind of a church and faith experience did you grow up in?
CS: I grew up in a Spirit-filled church with an emphasis on unity, creativity, and waiting on Holy Spirit, and I think the community I belong to now even takes waiting to another level. I’ve learned to really value waiting on Him.
JS: Why do you value waiting in general?
CS: I think the result means more…the reward is richer.
JS: What are you waiting for in your life?
CS: I think the thing I’m waiting for right now is finding a full culmination of gifting, purpose and contribution. I’m waiting for that sweet spot, that “aha” moment, where life, happiness, and fulfillment run together in unison with work and creativity.
JS: Did you feel that the “aha” moment would have already happened for you?
CS: Absolutely. I think that was the first layer of disillusionment for me. I trained every day through my adolescent years and spent 4 years studying to be a dancer in college. So it was pretty frustrating walking away as a graduate, without immediately resulting in a paid dance position. My dream wasn’t waiting for me in return.
When I look back though, I think it’s possibly the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
After graduation, I apprenticed in Houston with the Ad Deum Contemporary Dance Company. Randall Flinn, the director of the company who has a real heart to truly pastor artists and teach them kingdom principles, cultivated an environment where I could ask myself the question, “Are you willing to sacrifice your body, your movements, your time and even your earnings at the feet of Jesus?” I think it was such a positive thing that I realized my answer was “yes” at the beginning of my career.
JS: Do you think you’ll ever be a paid dancer in a proper sense?
CS: I sure would like to be! Unfortunately, it’s difficult to be a full-time dancer because the field is moving to more short-term, project-based work. It’s also harder to form consistent community with other artists. But it’s growing here in Dallas.
One thing I’d like to see change in the body of Christ is a value for the arts. How cool would it be if, the same way missionaries are financed and supported by the church, artists – influencers of culture – were given financial backing to pursue their art full time?!
After all, God is a creator. God highlighted Bezalel specifically to Moses to fully support his creative contribution, to make the house of God beautiful, for God and His people. I think the kingdom is missing a really big bridge to reaching the creative community because a value isn’t placed on it.
JS: How can the church value the arts?
CS: I think it would be easier for people to understand the value of the arts if artists brought more education to the table, even just sharing their process. Sometimes the process is even more alluring than the final product.
People like what they can understand. Studying literature makes it easier to appreciate literature. If kingdom artists do a good job of communicating and empowering other people in their understanding of the arts, I think there would be a lot more appreciation and interest for it.
JS: What do you value most about art?
CS: I went through a dark time for about a year when I stopped dancing. I didn’t know why. I had even moved to LA with my new husband with the hopes of finding work and pursuing my dreams. But I just stopped.
The thing I love most about art is when you don’t know what you know anymore (for me it was dance), you can go back to the drawing board (for me, quite literally) and still find a way to express. So I started painting. There were no rules or pressures to understand – I felt a measure of meaning and connectedness with the Lord that I hadn’t had my identity wrapped up in.
I came back to dance with a better understanding of God and myself and my art when I went into the unfamiliar. Art brought on a process of healing for me.
JS: How is your identity tied up in being an artist?
CS: I’m safest and most solid when I’m associating my identity as a daughter of God most strongly, and secondarily, but not less significantly, seeing artistry as a language that I can communicate with Him. My art is an access point for myself and others to experience Him.
My ego kicks in when I associate my identity more strongly with being an artist than being His daughter. When I confuse the gift for the identity – there’s a pride that settles in…I can feel more special because I’m an artist or because I feel like I can see things uniquely because I’m an artist.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t get it confused from time to time. 😊
JS: Do you think it’s harder for artists to confuse identity and gifting?
CS: Yes, I do. Lucifer was gifted creatively as a worshipper, but he got caught up in wanting to be worshiped himself. He stopped wanting to reflect God’s glory, and desired to be recognized for his own glory and beauty. When you have creative ability, it’s easy to get confused about who you’re reflecting. It’s the artist’s greatest downfall to identify more as a creative than a daughter or son.
It’s easy for me to become prideful with what God’s gifted me with or called me to champion. Sometimes our strengths can be our weaknesses. Of course there’s heavy opposition to the God-placed value on a creative person’s life.
JS: Have you grieved the reality that your career hasn’t been what you thought it would be?
CS: It’s oftentimes exhausting hoping for it, but at the same time, I haven’t felt a release to stop contending for all that I desire for it to encompass. I’m doing my best to steward that place of hope – not getting bitter or impatient, but also not sitting around just waiting for it to happen. I’m actively preparing my mind, body, and spirit. And I’m doing my best to be patient with myself and the process.
The hardest part is the physical work, training and discipline – taking myself seriously as an artist when I’m not being seen as one or paid as one. I’m breaking big dreams down into small, mundane, daily exercises and preparing myself as a vessel.
JS: What are your hopes as a dancer?
CS: I’d like to see Zion Dance Project tour and be a part of seeing it flourish. I’ve been involved with short-term projects with them, and I see it being a bridge and ministry to artists – a ministry that speaks the language of creatives, operating as a serious heaven strategy for the kingdom of God.
I really want to create my own work, choreograph and integrate art installations with dance. I think this is the next step for me. I’m continuing to believe that God is developing a voice through my own life, in addition to supporting the voices of others.
And I really desire to see a physical creative community where people can work, retreat and educate in neighborhoods where access to the arts is limited. I’ve seen dance get in the doors that a missionary or ministry couldn’t. I’ve seen it affect communities and ignite creativity where it wasn’t before.
It’s my biggest desire to serve communities. And I’m not waiting to be understood or respected for my art before I can serve.
Improvisation is kind of like stream of consciousness writing, so much is revealed, there is no hiding from your own self discovery. It’s exhilarating…and completely terrifying to uncover the contents of your own soul. 🌿Really excited about collaborating on a dance for film project with Tyler | 🎥Dance reel coming soon #darlingselfie #darlingmovement
Images and film by Tyler Sutton