ZEST gears up to present a new work at the first annual Higher Ground Festival taking place inside Northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park Saturday, June 27th, 2015.
Dance Mogul Magazine discusses the importance of this new creation with Artistic Director Gentry Isaiah George.
DMM: Often you present multimedia collaborations, tell us more about your new creation.
Gentry: We’ve teamed up with FilmMakers Renée Silverman and Peter Miller (creators of the documentary SOSÚA: Make A Better World) as well as Magician Harry Mandel to present a work that highlights the period of history when the murderous and racist Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, welcomed to his country hundreds of Jewish refugees escaping the horrors of the Holocaust. In the new work entitled Sosúa people of all races and walks of life come together to learn about an uncommon past and, in the process, discover countless expressions of what unites them in the present.
Gentry: This work is about identity and the disadvantages imposed by cruel populations in a world fighting against a culture of racism, discrimination, social inequality and poverty. Our story focuses on the time when Jews escaped the Holocaust by fleeing Europe to settle in Sosúa – a haven in the Dominican Republic.
Currently, Haitians flee their homes on a daily in hopes of finding employment and advanced education in their neighboring country. To attend school, they must illegally cross the border, via the Massacre River, the site where 20,000 Haitians were executed under the reign of Trujillo – the same dictator who welcomed the Jews during the Holocaust in an attempt to lighten the race of people on his island.
The media is swarming with stories of Haitians facing deportation from the Dominican Republic. There is a racial component that mimics much of North America, as Dominicans often look down on Haitians for their “blackness.” A violent past still stings for much of the divided island. I’ve learned a lot by exploring this theme with a cast racially diverse dancers and have attempted to imbue in them – through movement, a glowing warmth opposite the fragility of hate and fear.
This work focuses largely on the metaphors of the Massacre River, and systems of transportation to escape tyranny and injustice. This work takes a look at the tensions between nations past and present as the perils of one are often contrasted by the alleged successes of another. Ultimately, the plurality of storytelling is what will connect and educate us all.
I am excited to premiere this work in my Washington Heights neighborhood – a community flooded with Jewish and Dominican families. I think our story has the potential to bridge gaps between peoples of all walks of life as is my mission with every creative endeavor. I hope the audience members will be moved and transformed, and perhaps there will be one young child in the audience whose life will be forever changed having experienced the beauty of physical expression.
To learn more about ZEST COLLECTIVE Contemporary Performance Art visit: www.zestcollective.org