Within the confines of Westbeth Artist’s Housing in the West Village, Zazel-Chavah O’Garra and her ZCO Dance Project have made a courtyard into their stage.
O’Garra is all about movement, something the dancer, model and actor doesn’t take for granted. Nearly 20 years ago, doctors discovered she had a golf ball-sized brain tumor that paralyzed her entire right side and led to speech impairment and cognitive loss.
“The next day my entire family came and the neurosurgeon came into the room and he said ‘this doesn’t look too good,’ and he had no expression on his face,” said O’Garra.
After a 12-hour surgery and extensive rehabilitation, O’Garra was able to overcome the paralysis and speech impairment. Eight years ago, she formed a dance company to encourage the integration and inclusion of people with disabilities in dance.
This weekend, her ZCO Dance Project will perform at the 12th WestFest Dance Festival at Westbeth this weekend.
“That’s the best part of Westbeth when artists from our community and other communities can come here and show their work,” said George Cominskie, the executive director of Westbeth Artists Housing.
“On Saturday we have six different dance companies throughout the building and on Sunday we have seven dance companies throughout the building, so you get to see all different kinds of dance happen everywhere,” said Dylan Baker, a producer for the free event which also includes tours of the historic home for artists first opened in 1970.
Among the members of O’Garra’s group is professional dancer Abby Dias, who is hearing impaired. She’s been with the company for around a year.
“She’s inspiring, she’s kind, she makes wonderful art that really works for all the dancers in the company,” said Dias.
O’Garra also teaches dance and has become and advocate for the disabled.
“Every time I go to my doctor, to my neurologist, I always put on a beautiful outfit and makeup on, to make them know that I am still vibrant I am still dealing with life on a day to day basis, you know. Even though things are kind of going crazy in my brain, I make them know that I am handling it and doing my best to continue with my life,” said O’Garra, who says her motto is “turning setbacks into comebacks,” something she has clearly been able to do.
For more information on WestFest head to: https://www.westfestdance.com/