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.
Put this question to a professional dancer and even they might be stumped. It’s not really musical theater dance. It’s not concert dance. It’s not the dance you do while waiting in the ridiculously long line for the bathroom at a theater.
We may not know it yet, but theatrical dance may be the next evolution of movement, thanks to new generation of versatile dancers. Whereas it was once good enough to be the master of one form, the modern dancer must be as fluent in ballet as they are in break dancing to remain competitive in an increasingly diverse environment.
Television and YouTube have helped bridge the gaps between the different types of dance, and myriad studios offering any and every kind of dance have given birth to a new type of dancer who has learned Bollywood and ballet in the same studio.
Think back to your favorite piece from So You Think You Can Dance. Do you remember the amazing dancing, or the amazing story told through the dance? I’ll bet you’ll remember the story better than you remember how many pirouettes, or how high their jumps were.
These shows have capitalized on their dancers utilizing a wide range of techniques, but have blended it with strong–yet succinct–story telling. It’s the perfect format for today’s fast-paced world: a snippet of easily digestible story with a strong narrative.
Each of these shows relies on each dancer’s individual talents and their ability to seamlessly adapt to new styles and partners while still maintaining a through line. Shows like SYTYCD gleefully reimagine how dance is pieced together every single week.
This adaptability makes theatrical dance the perfect form for Stretch Dance Co. Theatrical dance takes advantage of the many talents of our dancers, focuses on the individual strengths of each one, and is flexible enough to transition from a dramatic look at the Holocaust to playfulness of Lady Gaga.
Theatrical dance takes the richness of all the traditions of dance, and yet eagerly steps outside the box to suit its purposes, which is exactly what Stretch Dance Co works for in every dance, every song, every story. This new trend in dance is already popping up onstage, on screen, and on the streets, but few have realized that these dances reach beyond traditional forms and into a brave new frontier.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Hello and welcome to Stretch Dance Co.’s blog! While you’re waiting for this week’s amazing video, I’ll be satisfying your curiosity about the latest Stretch Dance Co. news, the dancers, the rehearsal process, and even a little bit of history.
Who am I? I’m Laura Rensing, one of the dancers in I Have Lived a Thousand Years. This is my first Stretch production, but I’ve been dancing since I was three years old! These days I perform a lot of musical theater, but I am thrilled to, ahem, stretch my boundaries. You can probably spot me in some of Matt’s photos of the rehearsal process (I’m usually the one with flowers in my hair!).
You may be wondering why I’m writing this blog in place of our fearless leader, Lyndell Higgins, Executive Artistic Director of Stretch Dance Co. Lyndell has been developing this production for the past three years and can probably recite the book backwards, to say nothing of her knowledge of the history surrounding it.
For me, like many of us, the Holocaust dredges up memories of dusty textbooks and black-and-white photos of skeletal prisoners, a frozen image of history, an event relegated to the past tense.
But the reality is that the ripples of the Holocaust touch the tragedies of today’s society. History books would say that genocide ended the day Auschwitz was liberated; reality proves otherwise.
When we look at the Holocaust as history, we leave it there. In the concentration camps, Jews dehumanized and tattooed with serial numbers. We have given them new numbers in place of their names: statistics, casualties, facts, but we forget that over 11 million people lived and breathed, as well as died in the Holocaust.
Lyndell, of course, knows this already. Her vision for I Have Lived a Thousand Years is not a judgment about what happened, but a timeless lesson about the incredible strength of human compassion that arises even in the midst of unimaginable cruelty.
She has lived and breathed these lives working on this project, but I come with a new set of eyes, discovering new lessons even as you do.
I hope that by sharing my discoveries with you, we can give these countless victims a legacy beyond the grim chambers of the concentration camps, and a brighter future for future generations.