The ChaShaMa Gala is one of the craziest art parties of the New York season. Raising funds to support ChaShaMa mission of providing space and resources to emerging artists, the party takes place in an entire office floor high above Times Square. But this isn’t your normal office party. Each of the office rooms have been transformed by visual and performing artists into unique and magical experiences – earning the party the appropriate title of “The Burning Man of New York.”

Weaving in and out of the performers and art installations, our IVY video team was able to catch up with IVY member and choreographer Omar Roman de Jesus. Omar created a site-specific work for two dancers for one of the small office rooms, exploring his experience engaging with autism thought dance. With each performance of “5 Minutes with Nathan” limited to a handful of people who could fit into the space, the dancers performed the work many times over the course of the party.

One of the biggest challenge for Omar was creating a dance work in a non-traditional (theater) space.

“The most challenging part of the process was to figure out a way to get people inside the room and to stay. There was only one door which gives people the feeling of being trapped. We noticed that people were afraid to get stuck in a performance, so we had to figure out a way to let them know it was safe to enter. What we presented was heavy, and we were in the middle of the most outrageous party of the year. It was a new experience for everyone involved. We found success after studying the situation as we experienced it. As the artistic director and choreographer, I had a huge responsibility. The artists were performing for 6 hours straight, a total of 18 performances. I had to make it work! I must give credit to the dancers that helped figure out what needed to be done. It was a team effort and we are all very proud of what we accomplished on this evening.”

Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by a challenge to communicate and interact with others. In the hands of a choreographer, it provided not only a great sense of inspiration, but also the chance to discuss a sensitive and often misunderstood disorder.

“We had to use gestures to express the emotions. Simplicity was key to this performance. I had two amazing dancers that have worked for me before so they have an understanding of what I want. I used non-traditional music for the final part to help me get the message across. It was the audio from a video of a parent talking about his Autistic kid. I was inspired by this man. He was brave and stood in front of an audience to talk about his son in a comical way. I think that it is important to change the views on this delicate topic. It can be light, it doesn’t have to be so heavy all the time. This work helped me create awareness and uplift people hearts by bringing a new point of view. It is about starting conversations that are not usual so we can become more sensitive when we go out into the world to perform our daily routines.”

Finally, we asked Omar about what inspires him as a choreographer. “What inspires me is people. People that are brave. People that are strong. People that stand their ground. People that share love. People that listen. People that are generous. People that are kind.”

We filmed one entire performance of the work for you, we hope you enjoy it and it provides you with a new way of thinking about autism and the potential for art to communicate ideas.

“5 Minutes with Nathan”

Choreography: Omar Roman de Jesus
Dancers: Allie Kronick and Eoghan Dillon
Music: Ambient Forest
Lighting design: Christopher Chambers
Stage design: Joanna DeFelice
Costume: Mark Gieringer
Capture: Austin Kase
Editing: Julian Pinto
Production: Phil Chan

For more information about ChaShaMa, please visit www.ChaShaMa.org