East West is a multidisciplinary performance that sheds light on the struggles, hopes, and dreams of those involved in gang culture. Through rap music, dance, visual images and spoken word, East West explores why youth are attracted to gangs, the horrific impact of gang violence on community, the brutal reality of gang life in prison, and how people transform to find ways out gang life. East West is a tool for prevention and an innovative way that dance can contribute toward solutions.
To create the piece, creative director/lead artist Fran Spector Atkins worked with at-risk young adults at Rancho Cielo, a 100-acre campus in East Salinas offering educational and vocational training. Started by Judge John Phillips, Rancho Cielo’s vision is to transform the lives of those at-risk and empower them to become accountable, competent, and responsible citizens.
As on other SpectorDance projects, Spector Atkins collaborated with William Roden, a media artist, to film interviews with nineteen individuals associated with gang culture that became the starting point for the creative development of this project. East West features New York City-based rap artist Baba Brinkman; Los Angeles-based performers/co-creators, Jones Welsh (associate director), Anne-Marie Talmadge, Phillip Wainwright, and Colton PiersonGieger; visual art by former gang members; and award-winning photographs by Robert Yager.
In spring 2018, SpectorDance was awarded a generous grant from the California Arts Council for the next steps of East West. SpectorDance is now offering choreography workshops at Rancho Cielo and at Alisal High School, and rehearsing for the latest presentation of East West. The culminating performances at Rancho Cielo and Alisal High will include presentations of solos created in the choreography workshop and a full performance of East West with dancers from Rancho Cielo and Alisal High joining the professional East West cast.
SpectorDance is one of 46 grantees chosen for a JUMP StArts grant. JUMP StArts supports high-quality arts education and artists-in-residence programs for youth engaged in the juvenile justice system.
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