All posts by Laura Rensing

Guest Post: Designing I Have Lived a Thousand Years

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.  

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Though the costumes look uniform, each has its own details depending on the dancer

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?

Not quite.

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.

Stretch - Makeup
Gabriella’s costumes meshed perfectly with Brittany Vardakas’ makeup.

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.

–Gabriella Rose Lamboy

Gabriella
Gabriella looking fierce!

A Dancer’s Perspective: Dancing Through the Darkest Moments

Missed our preview performance?  Get a front row seat with pictures from our performance!

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.

Stretch - Tattoo1

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.

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The rest of the dancers stand in the back during Anne’s touching solo.

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! 

 

Stretch - Donate

 

 

Chapter Summary: Part 4

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.

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 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.

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A rare image of liberated Jews from the Bergen-Belson labor camp. It is especially rare to see a child survivor.

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.

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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.”

Elli nods.  “Let’s be among the first.”

 

Stretching the FAQs: Questions from Our Preview Performances

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…

Stretch - Empty stage1

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.

Stretch - Puppy Mascot
The puppy mascot would be available after performances to cheer up audience members, too!

 

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? 

Stretch - Family
Stretch dancers come from different backgrounds, but have the same passion!

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 info@stretchdanceco.com to see how you can get involved!  And of course, don’t forget to follow us on our social media! Or you can…

 

Stretch - Donate

Chapter Summary: Part 3

Our preview performances are THIS weekend!  Please join us as we bring this story to life!  

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Despite rumors of Hitler’s death, Elli and her mother are tattooed with a serial number; liberation does not seem close.  Elli worries as her mother’s strong will begins to crack.  The constant toll of starvation and thirst are taking its toll and Elli must convince her mother to continue working, for the alternative is a death sentence.  Fortunately, a rainstorm brings life-giving water with a thin thread of hope.  Even beaten, shaved, and starved as she is, Elli finds her mother beautiful in the wash of rain.

Elli and her mother slept in wooden beds like these.
Elli and her mother slept in wooden beds like these.

But this new strength will not last.  Elli and her mother are moved to new barracks with wooden beds.  Though the army blankets are an improvement, the unwieldy beds accommodate twelve women per square and are packed with rows of people.  The bunk above them cracks under the weight of so many and collapses on her Elli’s mother.  Despite her pleas, the women on the bunk above do not move off of the bunk, trapping her mother until fellow inmates help dislodge her.

Elli’s mother is taken to the hospital where a doctor tells Elli that her mother is paralyzed and will not regain consciousness.

Elli finds a small hole in the hospital wall right next to her mother’s bed.  She is able to whisper words of comfort to her mother in between her work, but she must be careful as it is forbidden for prisoners to dawdle around the hospital.

A guard finds her outside the hospital and Elli is punished.  She is forced to kneel for 24 hours without food or drink, and cannot move on pain of death.  As she kneels, Elli watches a new batch of prisoners enter the camp.  Elli is amazed to see people entering the camp looking well-fed and without the posture of an inmate.  As the column marches towards the columns of smoke, Elli fears that the stories about the gas chambers and the crematoriums are true.

As the month’s selection draws near, Elli fears for her mother, who is still in the hospital.   Despite the original diagnosis, her mother is not completely paralyzed, but cannot walk unsupported.  Those who do not pass the inspection disappear. Knowing that staying in the hospital would doom her, Elli and her old neighbors from her village help smuggle her mother out of the infirmary.

Annie portrays Laura Friedmann (Elli's mother) in our production.
Anne-Marie Talmadge portrays Laura Friedmann (Elli’s mother) in our production.

In a twist of fate, Elli’s mother manages to pass inspection, but an old wound on Elli’s leg keeps Elli held back.  Knowing that staying would cost her life, Elli sneaks back into the selection line, covering her leg with her dress.  The soldiers do not recognize her and Elli rejoins her mother.

Though they have survived the selection, they are far from safe.  A minor scuffle over a handkerchief nearly gets Elli beaten to death by an SS woman.  However, their harsh treatment lightens when they are moved to a new labor camp at a German factory.  They are given soap, towels, and even real clothes and winter coats.

As Elli delights in her newfound clothing, she reads the name of a girl sewn into the label of her coat: Leah Kohn.  Elli realizes that all the clothing belonged to other Jews—many of whom may be dead. Feeling that she is now an accomplice to the brutality visited on these people, Elli silently begs the former owners for forgiveness.

 

Chapter Summary: Part 2

This summary only covers the bare bones of the book, so if you have a chance, get out there and read the book for yourself!  It’s only 200 pages and a fantastic read.  Don’t forget to buy your tickets for Stretch Dance’s special preview performances.  

 

PART 2: 

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People were crammed into cattle cars like these during the Holocaust. Passengers were not given food or allowed off the train until they reached their destination.

On the cart ride to their undisclosed location, Elli talks to a young Hungarian soldier.  The friendly young man doesn’t know where they’re taking Elli and her fellow Jews from the ghetto, but promises to safeguard her book of poems.

Elli and her family are transferred to the hands of the SS and herded into cattle cars.  There is not enough room for everyone to sit, so those who aren’t lucky enough to get a spot near the walls are forced to stand and crouch for four days.

It is night when the cattle car finally comes to a stop.   There is confusion everywhere but it is impossible to miss the huge sign: AUSCHWITZ.  Elli follows her mother and Aunt Serena as they drift towards the group women walking to the left, but an SS officer grabs hold of Elli’s braid.  He stops Elli and her mother from following the other women, pointing them towards the other gate.  “You are sixteen now,” he tells the fourteen-year-old Elli.

The man was Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, and the line of unsuspecting Jews had been heading directly to the gas chambers.

Denai portrays Aunt Serena in our production.  Come to the preview to see her amazing solo!
Denai portrays Aunt Serena in our production. Come to the preview to see her amazing solo!

Aunt Serena is not allowed to join Elli and her mother and is shoved back into the line to the left.  Though she does not yet know that the line leads to the gas chambers, Elli calls out to her: “Aunt Serena!  Aunt Serena!  I’ll never see you again!”

Once in the camp, the Jews are stripped of their clothing, their hair, and their dignity.  In their place, they are given a sack dress with no other clothing to protect from the elements.  However, things lighten when Elli and her mother find other members of their family; Aunt Celia and her cousins.

Life in the camps is brutal. They labor for twelve hours and more in the hot sun without protection and with little water.  What little water they do manage to find is filled with gravel and putrefied water, and their only dinner is a thin soup seasoned with sawdust and worms.

At first, Elli cannot drink the fetid water, but circumstances numb her more and more to the inhumane conditions.   Rumors of gas chambers circulate the camps, but no one dares to speak out of it. The threat of death and punishment loom over their heads.

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Jill truly captures the spirit of Elli Friedmann in our production.

Working conditions worsen at the labor camp, and an ill-timed downpour brings down the wrath of the SS soldiers on Elli’s group of workers.  The chilling rain had slowed the work of the prisoners, and Commandant Goetz orders that one out of every ten prisoners must be shot at dawn.

But when the dawn breaks, no SS officers come for them.  They are lucky. A factory in the north has risen up in revolt and has focused the SS’s attention.  Elli and her commando are safe for one more day, at the expense of the lives lost in the uprising.

Chapter Summary: Part 1

I hope that everyone is buying their tickets for Stretch Dance’s special preview performances.  To help prepare you for the show, I’ll be posting a plot summary so that you can follow along while you’re watching.  Or better yet, go out and read the book!

 

Stretch - I Have LivedPART ONE:

Elli’s nightmare account starts with a dream; a thirteen-year-old’s dream of studying in Budapest.  She is a bright student at her school in Hungary, an avid poet, and even manages to stay on speaking terms with the handsome Janci Novak, though Elli’s mother despairs of her ever being truly pretty.

But all is not well with her idyllic town on the banks of the Danube.  The Hungarian military police frequently raid her family’s house in the middle of the night, confiscating anything ranging from tea to silk scarves for their scant connection to the enemy side.

Elli’s dream of attending school in Budapest is quickly smashed when her older brother, Bubi, brings back news that the Germans have invaded the city.  Her school in her village is also shut down and each Jew must stitch the infamous yellow stars onto their clothing.

The German invasion escalates the violence brought against the Jews in her village.  Contact between Christians and Jews is illegal, but jeering and insults still plague Elli the few times she ventures out.

Within a matter of months, the order comes for Elli and her family to relocate to a ghetto.  Multiple families are crammed into each tiny house, but Elli manages to take comfort in the sense of community.  While living outside the walls of the ghetto, the Jews were subject to hatred and discrimination.  Within the walls, each person can identify with the other, bonding them together in spite of the uncertain future.

Unfortunately, even this comfort is soon ripped from Elli.  All men between the ages of eighteen to forty are called to the labor camps, including Elli’s father.  Elli begs to be awoken half an hour before her father leaves, wishing to tell him of her love, but he leaves before she gets a chance to relay her message to him.  She wakes in just enough time to hear the carriages clattering away in the distance.

Budapest, Festnahme von Juden
Jews being marched through Budapest.

The Jews still at the ghetto begin to prepare for their own liquidation.  They are told that they must surrender all paper goods to the guards, and that the items will be returned.  Unconvinced, Elli sneaks a book of her own poems out of the pile, and not a moment too soon.  The guards burn the photos, letters, and books—including the Torah—to ash in front of their previous order.

But not all are willing to fall in line complacently.  Elli’s usually staid Aunt Serena raves at the injustice inside of the family’s rooms, breaking all their valuables so that their oppressors would not take them after they had left.  She initially refuses to leave the ghetto, declaring that she would rather die there, but Elli’s mother convinces her to settle down.  At dawn, they head for the camps.

 

Read Part 2 next week!  (Or skip ahead and read the book!)

Stretching Past the Limitations

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Lyndell is always on her game!

I know we make it look easy, but putting up a brand new original production with a young company can have a lot of pitfalls. Luckily, our fearless leader Lyndell has thought of a way around several of the issues.

How does Lyndell choreograph for dancers from different styles?
Our company consists of dancers who have studied anything from hip hop to flamenco, so you’d think it’d be incredibly difficult to make the corps pieces looks cohesive and strong. It probably is, but Lyndell makes it seem easy. Though all of us in the company come from a different dance background, everyone has an incredibly strong acting ability that helps knit us together. The movement in the group pieces is often very fluid and simple, but uses timing, ripples  and acting to keep the pieces dynamic.

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The dance solos are a very special treat. Lyndell tailors each dance to the soloist’s abilities and strengths, so each solo is absolutely stunning to watch! The solos are where you’ll see the flavor of where each dancer comes from, which makes the piece much more personal to us as we continue to build it.

How do we get by with just one rehearsal a week?
The great thing about rehearsing once a week is that we can slowly build our company. Many of us perform in other productions at the same time, and all of us have at least one other day job. Though it can be tough to keep the energy going at 9pm on a Saturday night, it’s great to end our week with Stretch! It means that each dancer has some homework when we go home, but it also gives us more time to work on the story behind movements.

It can also be difficult when performers are absent due to work and other shows, but we take a video (not the ones that you guys get to see!) of the combinations each week so that everyone can catch up and stay on the same page.

How do you get the word out about a young company?
Our social media extraordinaire, Matt Lardner, does a fantastic job of updating Stretch Dance Co.’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and makes our amazing videos each week. It may sound silly, but social media can mean a lot these days. Besides, it’s a great way to share with our friends and family everything that we’ve been doing!  And of course, we’re using our Preview Performances to get the word out and give you a sneak peak into the amazing work that we’ve been doing.  Hope to see you there!

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Guest Post: From a Third-Generation Survivor

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Laura Faiwiszewski with her grandmother and the author of I Have Lived a Thousand Years, Livia Bitton-Jackson!

A post from the author’s granddaughter, Laura Faiwiszewski! 

Not to be confused with the eloquent writer of the Stretch Dance Company blog, my name is also Laura (I like this guest blogger–she should do a blog every week–the other Laura), and I am one of Livia Bitton-Jackson’s granddaughters.

I heard about the I Have Lived a Thousand Years dance production from my grandmother, and I was immediately excited with the idea of the project. Telling the story of the Holocaust through dance, and a story about my own grandmother’s experiences to top it all off, sounded like an amazing way to honor the memories of those who perished, as well as an inspiring way to teach our present generation about the lessons of the horrible cruelty of the Nazis. While the Holocaust happened over half a century ago, it is still very relevant, and I know that this production will prove that to its audience.

I would like to share a little bit about myself. I am currently an undergraduate student in Rutgers University in New Jersey and majoring in Psychology. I am active among the Jewish community on campus, as I served on the Hillel student board (an organization that creates opportunities for Jewish students to celebrate and explore their Jewish identity at over 500 university campuses) and I always make sure to be involved in Pro-Israel programming. On another note, although it has almost nothing to do with my major, I have a passion for dance.

Does this count as an audition for the production, Lyndell?  I say she's in!
Does this count as an audition for the production, Lyndell? I say she’s in!

This past year I took a few different dance courses through Mason Gross, Rutgers school for the arts, and I just loved every minute of them (though if I were to be completely honest with myself, I must admit that I’m not the most coordinated or best dancer).

There is just something so special about dance than enables one to express his or her emotions through movement, and it can be as equally emotional and cathartic for an audience. That, along with the actual fun of dancing and improvisation, made me fall in love with dance.

So why am I writing a blog post for the Stretch Dance Company? What inspires me to want to take part in this production, even though I live across the country and can contribute very little to the process?

Well, for starters, my grandmother has always taught me that the Holocaust has very important lessons that must be shared with the rest of the world. I always find myself sharing my grandmother’s story with my peers and passing along her book, because I understand how important it is to constantly share that information. The Holocaust was a very dark time in world history, and it wasn’t only a tragedy among the Jewish people. At least 5 million people, such as homosexuals, gypsies, people with disabilities, and others were brutally murdered, along with the 6 million+ Jews that were killed.

The Holocaust was a violation against humanity as a whole, not just against these specific groups. It is important to learn from the cruelties and evilness of the Holocaust, but it is also important to remember the kindness and heroism that took place.

Many Jews continued to secretly practice their religion in the camps, even though they knew they would be killed if caught, because the hope and inspiration they got from their rituals gave them the strength to continue to survive.

Stretch - Holocaust survivors
Photo: Uriel Sinai for The New York Times.

There were gentiles who hid Jews in their houses to keep them safe, even though they were putting their own families in danger as a result. Many inspirational stories come out of the Holocaust that teach us to never give up hope, to stand up against evil, and to always help those who need it.

This coming semester, I will be interning through the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, teaching children and teenagers in public schools about the Holocaust. Teaching the world about this black mark in our history is something that is so important to me, because I really believe it is important to learn from the mistakes of those before us to make sure it never happens again for anyone.

That is why I think this production is so incredible- it sets out to teach people of our generation about the cruelties that can take place, as well as the kindness and hope that can be used to combat hatred.

Stretch Dance Company’s production of I Have Lived a Thousand Years will convey the lessons of the Holocaust in a new way, as it will be expressed through the powerful tool of dance. It will give the audience a new way to relate to and to understand the Holocaust. I’m sure this production will give its audience the motivation to fight against hate and to create a brighter future. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Dance: When Words Are Not Enough

NEWS ALERT: We’ll be having a special GUEST POST from the granddaughter of Livia Bitton-Jackson, Laura Faiwiszewski* this Friday! And don’t forget to tune in for Stretch Dance Co.’s important announcement on Thursday!

Stretch - CharlieDuring our last rehearsal, each dancer had to describe the show in one word as part of a promotional video that will be coming out this week.

You would think that finding one word would be easy after writing out several thousand of them for this blog, but I found that I was tongue-tied…and I wasn’t alone. I wish we had an outtake reel of all of us oohing when someone said a good word or stuttering out three in a row in the hopes that we could create a mega word that would somehow capture everything (supercalifragicourageousinspirationalmovingdocious?).

How can I say everything in one word, I thought, when this is so far beyond words?

Which, when you think about it, is really what this production is about.

In theater, they say that you only sing when your emotions cannot be contained in words, and you dance when your emotions cannot be contained in song.

The emotions run so high in I Have Lived a Thousand Years that words only convey a fraction of the story, but dance can connect those phrases with living poetry that transcends language and cultural barriers.

Whereas written and spoken words have a feeling of finality and definition to them, dance engages the audience’s imagination; they must imagine the words that could have been. In imagining themselves in the positions of these people, they can form a stronger connection to the material.

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I Have Lived a Thousand Years stands out from many other Holocaust pieces because it is not simply a memorial for what has passed, but an investment for the future. We want audiences to connect with the material so that the next time they face adversity or cruelty, they can perhaps take strength from those who have come before us.

It’s easy to paint the Holocaust in the bleak grays of history gone by, but Denai is Awesomethere was more to these people than just sadness. Livia Bitton-Jackson’s memoir does an amazing job of highlighting the humanity of each person in the book, of their personal moments of brilliance and strength in a dark time.

With dance, we hope to capture some of that complexity and add a new facet to Livia Bitton-Jackson’s compelling story, taking her knowledge beyond words and into our hearts.

*I think we should make it a rule that all posts be written by people named Laura 🙂