We had the good fortune of connecting with Zazel-Chavah O’Garra and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Zazel-Chavah, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I started ZCO/DANCEPROJECT to promote the idea of exploring the possibilities of our individual bodies, using dance as a means of personal expression and empowerment. I want to help in creating a community for disabled dancers, and an opportunity for all people to use their bodies in new and exciting ways.

As a disabled artist, I want to show our vulnerabilities and strength. How we fall and recover. How we treat the parts of ourselves that love us, support us, the parts that we attempt to correct, chastise and obscure. The mission of ZCO/DANCEPROJECT is to make dances that are clever, profound, insightful, ground-breaking and interesting. Our organization is committed to changing the lives of people with mental and physical disabilities through dance, providing opportunities that empower them to gain confidence and independence.. Our goal is to provide professional and highly effective dance related trainings and services to a wide range of clients that cuts across different divides.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am an Afro-Caribbean, Black, female, first-generation immigrant artist with a disability. These identities that I embody are the source of my strength as well as my vulnerabilities. I strongly believe that dance/ art is therapeutic. I believe we have to have dance/art, we have to have creativity, and with our creative spirits we can turn our setbacks into comebacks! In December 2002, I was diagnosed with meningioma, a benign brain tumor, which proceeded to paralyze the right side of my body and resulted in a slight speech impediment and cognitive loss. After receiving extensive treatment at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (East Orange, NJ) and New York University Rusk Medical Center. I slowly regained some mobility. I wear an AFO brace to provide support and strength.

Consciously deciding to make best use of this debilitating circumstance, I transitioned into teaching dance as a healing form to the disabled and non-disabled alike, continuing to share- infectiously a positive and fun spirit with others. My objective is to give those with disabilities a vehicle for self-expression, help them build a sense of self-esteem and self-reliance, and provide them with opportunities for community recognition and acclaim. I am passionate about raising public awareness about the challenges facing and the gifts offered by those with disabilities.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
New York City is a big and exciting city with many things to offer!! There are numerous restaurants, museums, theatres and outdoor activities that will excite any and everyone!

Top Sights in New York City;
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
Empire State Building
9/11 Museum
Metropolitan Museum
Cooper Hewitt Museum
Broadway-HAMILTON, MJ THE MUSICAL, Tina Turner Musical
Little Italy
Bronx-Arthur Ave, Yankee Stadium
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Harlem-The Apollo theatre, El Museo del Barrio, Studio Museum of Harlem, Harlem Haberdasshery
Hudson Yards
Restaurants-Red Rooster, Dhamaka, Rezdora, Kyu, Lase Wolf, Casa Carmen, Chino Grande, Essex Pearl, L’Abeille, Miss lily’s, Negril Village, Sugarcane

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I met Donna R. Walton, Ph.D. president and founder of DIVASWITHDISABILITIES. Donna is my mentor, confident and friend. Divaswithdisabilities is a digital movement and community which is committed to increasing the participation and representation of Black and Brown women and girls with visible disabilities.

Donna said I am a DIVA- (dynamic, illuminating, victorious, achieving sister) Donna empowered me to continue to pursue my dream of being an artist unapologetically without fear or hesitation.

Website: https://www.zcodanceproject.com

Instagram: instagram.com/zcodp1/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zazel-chavah-o-garra-msw-95b90849

Twitter: twitter.com/zcodanceproject

Facebook: facebook.com/zcodanceproject

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3n5wBMp8A3IkSJej7rsx5w

Other: https://www.zcogarra.com

Image Credits
Wendy Powell Gustavo Monroy

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.