Miss our weekly video? We’ve missed making it! But don’t worry: we’re coming back with a hearty round of Applause from Lady Gaga this coming Thursday! Stay tuned on our YouTube channel to see it first!
Do you think you have what it takes to be a Stretch Dancer? After watching our dancers back in action at our latest rehearsal, I’ve compiled a list of what makes a SDC member stand out above the rest!
A Stretch Dancer is…
Disciplined – When you only rehearse once a week, you have to be on your A-game. This doesn’t apply to just polishing the combinations learned during rehearsal, but making a personal commitment to keep our dance skills and knowledge at its best.
Versatile – Versatility is key for a Stretch Dancer. One week we’ll go Gaga, the next we’ll turn Pink, then head into history the week after that. Dancers need to be able to make those leaps without missing a beat while still portraying their character honestly and respectfully.
Exceptional Actors – Stretchers come from a variety of dance backgrounds ranging from contemporary to flamenco, but we share one thing in common: a solid set of acting chops. Lyndell’s choreography is extremely story-driven and would wouldn’t pack as much of a punch without some amazing storytellers behind it.
Stretchy– Dancers have to be flexible, and not just on the dance floor! Since we come from such different backgrounds, everyone has their chance to shine…and to stretch their abilities. From dance steps to emotional vulnerability onstage, each dancer has to face moments where they move past their comfort zone.
Passionate – Above all, Stretch Dancers are extremely committed to dance and storytelling. Dance is more than a job or a workout to us; it’s expression at its purest form. This week’s video might suggest otherwise, but we’re not in it for the “Applause.”
Interested in learning more about becoming a Stretch Dance member?Find out more StretchDanceCo.com!
Gabriella Rose Lamboy is Stretch Dance Co.’s costume designer. Gabriella talks about the challenges she faced designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years that was both realistic and accommodating to the demanding choreography for the dancers.
I wanted to be historically accurate when designing the women’s prisoner uniforms, but I also needed to accommodate the dancers. The actual uniforms were made with a very stiff, scratchy cotton fabric – which is not ideal to dance in.
I spent a day in the LA Fashion District on a hunt for the right charcoal grey fabric. The hard part was finding a fabric that was stretchy, but would still appear thick onstage. After a full day’s search, I finally found the perfect fabric in the last store I went to! The rest of my shopping list was easy: notions, buttons and paint.
I started by using a regular men’s polo shirt as a pattern. I cut it into sections and made the pieces longer to create more of a dress-like shape. I then sewed all the pieces together, added buttons, and hemmed the dresses. But was I finished?
After creating eight perfect uniforms it was time to grunge down. I used a seam ripper to distress the uniforms, adding frayed edges and ripping holes. Some uniforms got a bit extra treatment because they needed to look more worn for the women who had been imprisoned longer.
As a finishing touch, I watered down acrylic paint and used a sponge to add dirt and sweat stains, focusing on the areas that would get the grossest: the bottom hem and underarms.
But that wasn’t quite enough. To complete the look, I spattered various yellows and browns to give the look of mud and other unmentionable stains. Lyndell wanted the dancers to feel disgusted putting the costumes on, and I think I was able to achieve that. (Laura’s note: object achieved!)
The most rewarding part of this experience was getting to see my costumes transform into the people from the memoir under the stage lights. It was emotional–and a little bit sickening–how real the grotesque makeup and costumes seemed.
This is a very powerful show and I am excited to see how it transforms to better educate future generations.
A few weeks ago, I posted the most commonly asked questions about our show. One of them was about how the dancers in the company deal with the emotionally heavy subject matter of the show. One patron even asked what the hardest chapter was to perform.
None of these chapters are particularly sunny, but the hardest chapter for me is one of the most uplifting in the show: Chapter 22:Tattoo.
In this chapter, Elli’s ailing mother is revived by a sudden rain fall. Elli and her fellow prisoners open their mouths to the sky, tasting their first untainted gulps of water in months. Many of these prisoners are on the verge of death from thirst, starvation, and overwork, and this sudden downpour gives new life to the shattered lives of the inmates.
It’s supposed to be an uplifting—if haunting—chapter, and is one of the few times we see the inmates in the concentration camp rejoice, if only for a short while.
I suppose that’s what makes this chapter so hard for me. This was the first chapter where I felt a visceral connection to the material, and helped me find my way into the rest of the show. It was hard for me to put myself into the shoes of these people—especially because you know that these were real lives of those who lived and died. My brain understood the connection, but I couldn’t tie my emotions to the thoughts.
Until Chapter 22.
For me, I spend the first half of the number facing the back, which gives me time to settle into the abandoned music box quality of the music. I remember looking forward to the next break during our first rehearsal of the number, because I was dying for a drink of water.
It hit me like a sucker punch to the gut.
I could see the span of what I might feel in a similar situation. I would hate the people who were slowly killing me, hate that no one did anything to stop them, I would hate myself for my body’s weakness. I would think that everyone—even God—had abandoned me.
And that was the point in the music where the “rain” began.
Was this an answer to my prayers, or just a cruel trick of nature? I couldn’t help but wonder who else might have had those thoughts during the actual event. And the relief from the rain brought a dangerous emotion: hope.
There is a safety in being locked in the grim routine of the camps, in not caring about the future. But to hope? Hope gives you something to lose in a place where you cannot afford to fall behind.
As I realized this, far from the tragedies of the concentration camps, I was again astounded at the incredibly courage of Elli and her family. To continue to have such hope, even in the darkest of circumstances must have been almost impossible to sustain. And yet she did. And still does, in fact.
So while Chapter 22 may be one of the most difficult portions for me to perform, it is also the most humbling and inspiring of the passages. I can never truly understand the suffering of those who went through the Holocaust, only someone who lived it can. But this chapter, to me at least, reflects the greater message of this show and memoir: a message of hope and compassion even in times of terrible darkness.
I would love to hear what my fellow dancers have to say about their toughest or most inspiring moments in the show, if only to give me a break from rejecting the spam comments!
Our preview performances are over, but the chapter summaries are not! Read on to find out how Elli’s memoir concludes, or go out and read the book for yourself!
Though life in the new labor camp is made somewhat gentler by better food and warmer clothing, Elli’s condition is still far from ideal, and they are often forced to work in inhumane conditions, including working in subzero temperatures without their coats.
Fearful of the cold, Elli and several other inmates hide, but are soon found by one of the S.S. men–nicknamed the Goat for his uneven gait and buckteeth. Though the Goat has been kind to Elli in the past, he shows no such gentleness now. Their punishment is to stand out in the cold without food. Elli returns to her bunk, cold and starving.
As she watches the dawn break, she recalls a dream where she and her father are cloaked in shadows. A bird of gold flies through the darkness, flooding it with light. Elli’s father calls to her to look at the bird, but Elli is afraid to look at its frightening beauty. It circles her father until he turns into a statue, his eyes raised to the sky.
The dream comes back to Elli, and with a bitter certainty, she realizes that her father was dead. She would later find out that her father had died on the fifth day of Passover–the very night after her long punishment by the wall.
Elli and her mother are transferred to yet another labor camp, but they rejoice to find out that Bubi is still alive in a nearby camp! They arrange to meet him at the fence that divides the men’s labor camp from the women. As Bubi limps up to them, Elli find that her brother is a specter of the boy he used to be.
A few days later, Bubi finds Elli and her mother. The inner guards have abandoned their posts. Elli hopefully speaks of walking through Germany to find their lost relatives; Aunt Serena, Aunt Celia, and her cousins. Bubi gently tells her that they are the only ones left, and that the gas chambers were not just a nightmare, but a brutish fact.
Soon, the prisoners are ushered into box cars. No one knows where they are going, but rumors of an American liberation thrill through the camps. They are transported without food for days until the train comes to an unexpected stop. They can see white trucks with red crosses just beyond the windows.
Red Cross members hand soup through the bars of the train into the grateful hands of those inside, but it is a cruel trick by the Germans. Machine gun fire rips through the side of the train, into the very people reaching for the soup. Bubi is hit in the head and while Elli instantly mourns her brother, Elli’s mother tries to staunch the blood.
The German attack is halted when American planes shoot at the train. They huddle underneath the train with a few other survivors.
When the attack is over, they are forced back onto the train. Elli is surprised and thankful to find that Bubi is still alive, but many other inmates are not as lucky, and more die on the train ride. At last, the trains are stopped as American soldiers free the inmates.
A German civilian woman from a nearby village wonders that Elli managed to survive at her age. Confused, Elli asks “How old do you think I am?”
The German woman guesses she is sixty, and is horrified that Elli is just 14 years old.
Elli and her family are finally liberated, but they feel far from it. Only thirty-six people out of five hundred who were sent to the camps have returned to her hometown. They return home to the news that Elli’s father is died two weeks before liberation. For Elli, her village is no longer her home.
Though Elli wants to go to Palestine, her mother and brother wish to go to the United States. After their harrowing experience, they have vowed to never be apart from each other, and so Elli reluctantly agrees to go to America.
As their boat sails into the harbor of New York, the immigrants launch into the anthems of their homeland. Elli’s mother tells her, “We shouldn’t be among the last ones to step ashore.”
First off, all of us at Stretch Dance Co. would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who came to our preview show this past weekend! It was an incredible experience for us to show you what we’ve been working on. For those of you who missed it, don’t worry! We’ll still be posting videos and updates on our Twitter, Facebook, and website, so…
This weekend was a great opportunity for us at Stretch because it was the first time that we got to hear some audience feedback. Some of the questions were expected, some took us by surprise. Here are some of the top FAQs from our audience:
How do you deal with the emotional strain of a show about the Holocaust? (This was the most asked question by far!)
While I Have Lived a Thousand Years is a very inspirational account, the Holocaust will never be—and should never be—a light-hearted subject matter. That being said, we’ve joked about getting a puppy to cheer us up after particularly rough rehearsals.
It helps to know that the Dr. Livia Bitton-Jackson is still well, and lives a very full life in spite of her traumatic experiences. Lyndell linked us to a phenomenal interview with her, and it is amazing to see her composure and gentle spirit (you can check it out here if you want to see! You can create a log in for free). For me, it helps to know that by bringing her story to life through dance, we are hopefully preventing its recurrence.
Which orchestra played for the soundtracks?
No orchestra, just one man! Our composer, Robby Greengold digitally compiles all the music and different instruments to create the tracks. We hope to raise enough funds to eventually hire an orchestra to record the tracks, but for now, we make do with Robby’s one-man band!
Do they still teach the Holocaust in public schools?
Most curriculums cover at least some portion of the Holocaust. However, as budgets steadily grow tighter and resources are stretched thinner, students today may not get the same exposure to the material as past classes. I remember visiting the Museum of Tolerance several times while I was in school, but some schools now cannot afford even the buses for field trips.
Furthermore, our production is a fresh perspective of the Holocaust. Many people in the audience were surprised at certain facts from the memoir, particularly in what the prisoners were forced to eat and drink. Our production can round out and fill in the holes in the current high school curriculum.
Is everyone in the cast Jewish?
Nope! Some of us are, but others in the cast are not. Just as we come from many different dance disciplines, we all come from different backgrounds, but we all feel strongly about the subject of compassion and tolerance.
How can I get involved?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can get involved! And of course, don’t forget to follow us on our social media! Or you can…