Tag Archives: hope

A Year of Stretch Dance Company: Where We Were Then, and Where We’re Going

Hello Friends of Stretch!


You didn’t think we’d disappeared, did you?

Just in time, too.  As summer comes to a close, so does my first year with Stretch Dance Company.

It has been an unbelievable year.It has been a year of unexpected pitfalls and victories, of friendship, of dance, and especially hope.

If I sat down with the Laura from a year ago, she would have a very different idea of how things would turn out.

A year ago, I had just started writing for the blog and Stretch had just closed its preview performances of I Have Lived a Thousand Years.  A year ago, I thought the hardest part of being in a dance company was trying to make it Lyndell Perfect Land a reality.

As the lights went down on our final preview performance, I thought that the hardest work was complete.

Ah well, I did say it was a year full of hope, didn’t I?

Shortly after the preview closed, I began working with Lyndell on the backend of the company.  Let me tell you, if you think Lyndell Perfect Land is hard on the dance floor, try it on a desktop.

But the hardest about making a dream dance company a reality?  The reality part.  The truth is, it takes time to grow a company—dance or otherwise—and there are a whole host of problems.  From finding the right people to securing a dance space, to finding time to rehearse (while you have the space), to nabbing funds, to promoting the company, which usually means you need more funds…unfortunately dance is often the last thing on the list.

But it has also shown me the kind of company that Stretch could be once it’s off the ground.  Though there have been some drawbacks, I have been so inspired by Lyndell and the rest of the Stretch Dance Company and everyone’s commitment and generosity to pledge their time, their talent, and themselves to this adventure.  I have been bowled over by the excitement of our fans, by my friends who are always there to support and ask me about what’s going on with the company, and even by interested third parties who hear about us at a workshop, or in passing.

The message that Lyndell is trying live—through dance, through the very mission of Stretch Dance Company—is hope.  Each dance she choreographs is a step closer to this ideal.  We are surrounded by news and stories that remind us just how awful the world can be.  Lyndell and Stretch Dance Co. offer a different story: one of optimism founded not in naïve ignorance, but based in the strength of those who have come before us, and in the richness of what we create now.

It will be a hard slog from here, but I believe in my fellow Stretchers, in Lyndell, and most of all, for what we stand for: hope.

Guest Post: From a Third-Generation Survivor

Stretch - laura and taffa
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.