Susana di Palma talks 'Dali's Cookbook'


This weekend, Zorongo Flamenco and Ballet of the Dolls are presenting Dali's Cookbook: A Gastronomical Inquisition. It's a collaborative piece based on Salvador Dali's Les Diners de Gala, which plays on the name of Dali's lover, Gala. We recently caught up with Susana di Palma while she was on break from rehearsals for the show, where she plays Dali's infamous muse, and talked to her about how the show came about and how dance companies are managing in today's economy. 

Have you and Myron Johnson collaborated together before?

This is at least the third time we've worked together. Myron was in Tales of the Black Legend and I was in Rite of Spring.  

How did you come to work together for Dali's Cookbook?

Robert Skafte and Susana di Palma

Robert Skafte and Susana di Palma

It's very bizarre. I had the dates booked at the Ritz for another project, which didn't end up happening. We had signed the contract, so we had the dates. Myron and I were talking, and we decided that we should do a show together. I mentioned that I was interested in Salvador Dali and Myron said, 'Oh my God, I have this cookbook Dali gave me.'

What was the project you were going to be doing in this time slot?

It's a show I will end up doing at the Cowles Center in the fall: Zorro in the Land of the Golden Breasted Woodpecker.

What interests you about Dali?
Part of it is because I spent so much time in Spain. And I met Dali in 1980.

I spent some time on the Costa Brava and went to his museum--you know, the one with the eggs on top? I was touring with a Flamenco Gypsy company. I would see him in the café. And one day I said, 'Stop the bus, I'm going to get out.' I wanted an autograph. He asked me what the painting was called as you enter the Dali museum. I didn't know. 'The blue one?' I sort of slithered away. He would sit there with his cane and with Gala and another woman who I presumed to be his lover, but in researching it further I've come to believe the other woman was Gala's lover. He also had a relationship with the Spanish playwright Lorca. 

Didn't Dali and Lorca have a falling out?

Yes. Dali met Gala and broke Lorca's heart. She was married at the time to this poet, Paul Éluard. They went and visited Dali together, and she ended up marrying Dali, but had an affair with the poet 30 years later.

So who was Gala Dali?

Dali loved her so much. She became the reason for his existence. When she died--she got dementia--he left and became a recluse. When they were together he built her this castle, and in her later years she gave his money and paintings away to her lovers. He would have to get permission to see her two weeks in advance. I like that. She was his stability. 

When did Gala and Dali meet?

They met in 1929 or 1930--before he "sold out," according to some.
And when did he make the cookbook?

In the 1970s.

What happens in the show?

It's not traditional flamenco, because we had no money for live musicians. We just started looking at Dali's cookbook, and found recipes that gave the piece inspiration. Robert Skafte, who plays Dali, has worked a lot with Myron. They did something on Dali 10 years ago. We've done more research about the love story between Dali and Gala.


When did you learn Flamenco?

I've been doing Spanish dance since I was a little girl. I went to Spain in the 1970s--under Franco--where I stayed and studied. In those years I worked with various companies touring. I bought an apartment in Madrid in 1984, but I haven't spent as much time there in recent years.

How do you identify with Gala?

I identify with the woman being the man--being the stabilizing force, the brains behind the art, the rock behind the genius. Although, perhaps some of my past partners might say that about being in a relationship with me.

It sounds like it's difficult to do shows right now in today's economic climate. What has been your experience?

Myron would agree with me that you have to be very careful. Certain veterans--like Myron and myself--obviously we're not going to do anything else. We've had our heyday.

For this show, we're doing everything. My partner's doing projections. We're focusing it ourselves, doing props, and costumes--everything. But you know? We'll do it anyway, even when, like this show, there is no funding. People do things because they love it. You just do it smaller. We'd love to have more dancers and more rehearsal time. But still, there's certain freshness to doing it this way. It's like when you're a kid: Let's put on a show. It's a liberating freshness. 



Dali's Cookbook: A Gastronomical Inquisition

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday this week at 8 p.m.

Sunday at 7 p.m.

The Ritz Theater

345 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis.

$27 general admission.

Cabaret tables for four are $125 or $150 on Sunday for the Gala, which takes place after the show.

Saturday's Gala tickets (performance + after party) are $45 or $30 for the gala only.

See here for tickets.