Christian Zehr, an ACU alumnus, has been enriching the Abilene art scene for years. He first caught this writer’s eye when he played “Perchik” in The Paramount’s, “The Fiddler on the Roof”. His dancing was graceful yet masculine, a perfect balance for Perchik’s freethinking and rebellious storyline. Upon further investigation, I learned that he also choreographed the production.
“Christian Zehr is an incredible choreographer with great vision”, said Corban Gililland. “Working with him in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was an amazing experience. (He) and Barry Smoot brought the show to life with their unique styles of dance and blocking. Christian is very understanding and can relate to his cast while holding respect from them.”
When asked about how he started dancing, he joked, “To be honest, I don’t recall a moment when I started to dance, or even choreograph. Both of my sisters and I have all been dancing ever since we could walk. When I was three, I would do aerobics with this VHS tape called ‘Praise! Aerobics’.”
Appearing in numerous recitals as a child, he learned to do his own makeup. “I didn’t trust the volunteer mothers to do my makeup because I was convinced they would make me look like a little doll with too much blush”, said Zehr. From there, he learned the basics from a close friend and his abilities flourished. Most recently, he was the lead makeup artist for the Abilene Preservation League/Abilene Community Theatre’s “Haunted Abilene”.
“He was great!” Said Susan Steele, who acted as a scarer in the haunted house, “He really enjoyed what he was doing and made everyone’s makeup unique to them.”
“I have found a certain empowerment through makeup. I was always an incredibly fearful child. Once I discovered the mischievous world of makeup, I was suddenly handed the tools to create the very things I feared. I, myself, could become the monsters I feared.” Said Zehr, “Then, most importantly, I could witness the process of myself removing the ugliness and remembering that underneath, I was me all along. And I am not the monster.”
Zehr has extensive interest in artistic pursuits. He paints, does calligraphy, has done costume design, chainmail, and more–on top of his dancing and makeup arts.
“I’ve never been able to pinpoint a certain art form that I wanted to identify myself with exclusively. I have this nonsensical hope that someday I might be able to just LIVE as the unique eccentric individual that I am and somehow people hire me to have my brain on their projects.” Said Zehr, “My world is a breathtaking, terrifying, wondrous, awesome, gruesome, and beautiful place.”
Zehr was homeschooled and took classes at Dance Discovery Studios before attending ACU. While pursuing academia, he joined the Sanctify Hip Hop Dance Company. When asked what draws him to art, he said, “A professor once told me that the difference between a practitioner of a certain art form and a true artist is that the practitioner simply develops a set of skills; the true artist has an entire world that exists in their mind and they merely spend their lives finding tools and ways to show glimpses of that world to others. I liked that idea.”