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 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.
Stretch Dance Co.’s makeup designer Brittany Vardakas has recently returned from Israel. Read about her experiences in Jerusalem and the Holocaust History Museum.
I feel as if I have just returned from another world; a place where the spirit of hardship and suffering still lingers, and yet a feeling of faith somehow trumps all the pain.
I had the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. You enter the museum by walking down a small hill where a video plays of Jews living a normal life, doing daily duties, people shopping, and children playing.
As you stop to watch the images flash by, you find yourself getting more involved. The change happens so gradually that you don’t spot what’s wrong at first. Shops start to close down, streets look less busy, and you see more people sleeping outside and begging for food. Just before the video goes to blank, you see them: the Nazis.
You’ve been so involved in the video that you didn’t realize that you’re in a triangle shaped building that zigzags through till the end. You feel trapped; the only way out is to walk all the way through.
So your journey starts.
During your walk, you start with the history of Hitler. You see the tools of the trade of genocide: photos are posted everywhere, there are videos playing and displays of clothing, books, and propaganda, even hair samples that they would use to prove that you were a Jew.
You feel hatred, but it is the small things, the normal things that hit you the hardest. You see children’s toys, books, bikes, and clothing while you look at photos of tiny faces, as lost to us now as their toys were to them.
Your heart grows heavy. You think, why? The worst for me was when I had to walk over the shoes that were collected from the prisoners before they entered a concentration camp. It’s the feeling of losing something so simple that we take for granted everyday.
The last room you enter is filled with black books containing the names of the victims. There are so many books, but some have many blank pages as well, as they are still trying to get all the names of the victims.
At this point you’re exhausted.
You think that nothing can redeem, can ease the suffering of those people. You can’t even begin to put yourself in their footsteps. What it could have been like. How much pain they went through each day.
And yet I have seen Orthodox men and women in their daily lives; walking around, praying, and playing with their children. I wonder how many of these people are descendants of that tragedy. Maybe some of their parents and grandparents had shoes in that pile, maybe their sister left a toy in that display.
Despite having their hair cut off, being stripped of their clothing, being stripped of their humanity, these people have never lost sight of God. Their faith is something so beautiful and unbreakable. Their love for God is out of this world.
This trip has not yet set in with me yet. Trying to explain what I saw and what I experienced is still hard because it was so overwhelming. My life has been changed.
Read about dancer Carey Newmark’s experience creating the promotional video for Stretch Dance Company’s newest production, I Have Lived a Thousand Years. Haven’t seen the promo yet? Click here to check it out!
My experience making this video was one of both happiness and sadness.
Happiness because I was honored, excited, and hopeful with the project. I am honored to be a part of a project that has such large potential of a long-term successful show; especially portraying the central figure, Elli Friedmann. I am always excited to work with Lyndell Higgins on projects because she is so organized, detail-oriented, and talented in her direction. I am always happy with projects as long as I am dancing; it is my happy place. Lyndell provides me with opportunities for my passion in dance. I am also beyond hopeful that the message of this show brings more awareness to the community and hopefully the world. The Holocaust is a very important time to never forget. Our world today is a reminder of how far humanity has grown in acceptance of different religions and faith, but we still have a far way to go and this production will only keep that message alive!
The video also was a piece of sadness for me. I feel very attached to the message because I come from a Jewish bloodline and family background. My honor to my family who passed in the concentration camps allowed me to dive deeper into my feelings and emotion to bring the piece/video alive. Everything felt real for me.
Therefore, the acting process was easy to connect to. I have never worked on a dancing role with this large amount of acting before. It was a lot of work to add a more exaggerated emotion while dancing. Moments where I felt I was expressing the correct emotion, Lyndell had wanted something different. So it was those moments I really had to work on mentally imagining how to change and focus my attention differently to portray Elli Friedmann more accurately.
The choreography was easy to dive into emotionally because Lyndell’s musicality is spot on. The happy soft moments were graceful and carefree in my body and the angry, sad moments were filled with sharp and explosive choreography. Lyndell definitely sees her work specifically and makes sure the choreography is done just that way…. Even if you are a right dominant dancer and she has left choreography… you make it happen! I was willing to have as many takes needed to get the choreography perfect on film. Talk about multiple blisters on the feet!
Again, I was more than honored to be asked to portray Elli and worked hard to bring her alive within me and make her proud. I’m very excited to see the potential of this show to come!