Now I don’t expect people to be experts on the subject matter—I’m certainly not one myself—but some of these kids couldn’t even answer name which country Adolf Hitler led during WWII. Another student thought that WWII was waged 300 years ago!
This is a critical gap in our education system. In past blogs I’ve explored how ignorance and indifference fueled the Holocaust grow from one extremist party to a world war, and the danger lurks not just in the past, but in the present. When we hide ignorance and hate, or ignore its potency, we give it room to grow untended. We cannot prevent the Holocaust in 2013, but we can use the knowledge gained from the experience to combat genocide today.
The video makes an excellent point that these students are not to blame for their ignorance, but their lack of education. As a teacher’s daughter, I know just how that time is almost as tight as money in public schools. But I also know that the responsibility of education does not fall solely on the shoulders of the teachers themselves, but on each and every member of the community.
This particularly applies to the arts. I’m sure we’ve all heard about arts funding being the first to go in budget cuts, and I’ve heard many debate about the usefulness about the arts and humanities at all. Shouldn’t we have more doctors, more engineers, more teachers!
The answer is yes, of course! But we also have a vital need for those who can see the whole story, and tell it to the engineers, the doctors, the teachers, the lawyers. Armed with that information, they can do their work that much better. But how can a doctor treat a wound they don’t know about?
This is why I Have Lived a Thousand Years and other educational projects from outside of schools are so vital. We can provide vital support to our struggling schools and give direction to the students of tomorrow, whether they want to be dancer or a doctor.
It doesn’t take much to made a difference. A 90 minute show can be the introduction of a new generation to a brighter future.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago, Lyndell lead a history session to help educate the company about WWII, the Holocaust, and dispelling some of the myths about the people involved.
What struck me the most from our discussion was when I heard that Hitler learned to read from anti-Semitic pamphlets. I can’t help but wonder: What if the first things that Hitler had read hadn’t been couched in ignorance and hate? What if he had read about new technology, or music, or even something as mundane as farming?
I’m sure it took more than a few pamphlets to lead him down the dark road to the Holocaust, but I find it significant and tragically ironic that the materials he used to educate himself were based in falsehoods and generalizations. Those pamphlets were not the cause of the Holocaust and the terror visited on those involved, but they were the first step towards genocide.
When we talk about the evils of the Holocaust, we often focus on hatred and racism as its strongest factors. For me, however, I see another theme that runs through the history of WWII: ignorance.
I was particularly struck by this while reading I Have Lived a Thousand Years. Part of the motivation for eliminating the Jews was the German obsession with eugenics, the idea of breeding out undesirable traits. For Germans during this time, blonde hair and blue eyes signified a superior human being.
For us, the concept is laughable. Why should blue eyes indicate a higher level of intelligence? And yet, the most powerful men behind the Holocaust believed in it so much, they were willing to systematically murder over 11 million “undesirables.”
Genocide does not begin with burning bodies, but with burning books. Those at the head of these murders often try to hide that the victims are people just like us, despite different coloring, religion, or anything else that pseudo-science may try to classify.
I truly believe that knowledge is our greatest shield against such depravity, and that ignorance is evil’s strongest weapon. This is why I believe so strongly in Lyndell’s vision for our production of I Have Lived a Thousand Years.
By breathing life into the very human lives the passed through those dark gates, we can take one step towards combating that ignorance and prove that any tolerance of hate is dangerous.
The next world leaders are sitting in classrooms right now. What are we teaching them? Are we teaching them to hate, as Hitler learned? Or are we teaching them the bravery to face the truth, and the courage to do something about it?