The NDSS dance program presents Terezin, which tells the story of a Jewish art teacher during the Holocaust, at Malaspina Theatre on Jan. 17. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo District Secondary School dancers to perform at Malaspina Theatre

Original production ‘Terezin’ tells the story of a Jewish art teacher during the Holocaust

Following a successful festival run last fall, the Nanaimo District Secondary School dance program is bringing an acclaimed production to the general public for the first time.

Terezin is a Second World War-era movement piece that uses dance and narration to tell the story of Friedl Dicker–Brandeis, a Jewish art teacher living near Prague who was sent to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in the Czech city of Terezin before ultimately dying at Auschwitz.

“Friedl herself is a remarkable woman who used art – she’s sort of one of the first to use art therapy – with kids to allow them to process what was happening,” said Kelly Barnum, NDSS history and dance teacher. “I just hope people can kind of get a glimpse into this remarkable woman’s story because not lot of people know her story and they really should.”

Barnum created the piece with choreographers Chamberlan Teghtmeyer, a Grade 12 student, and Sarah Kielly, an NDSS grad and Tempo Dance Academy instructor now in her first year at Vancouver Island University. Terezin will be performed at Malaspina Theatre on Jan. 17.

So far the production has been very well received. At the Vancouver Island One Act Festival in November it won Best Original Script, Best Play and Teghtmeyer earned the Certificate of Merit for Female Actor in a Leading Role. Later at the North Island Regional Drama Festival Terezin was selected as the alternate to represent the Island at the provincial festival and picked up honours for Ensemble Excellence in a Drama, Outstanding Production, Outstanding Sound Design and Scoring, Outstanding Movement and Choreography and two Excellence in Acting awards for Teghtmeyer and dancer Jasper Henigman.

Kielly said it was challenging working with a subject as serious as the Holocaust. She said at first she was worried the message wouldn’t come across properly in her choreography or people would take the dancing the wrong way.

“I think for me that was just a process of working with my dancers, getting feedback and what looks best on them, and then I would just create images and then Ms. Barnum and I would just write the script as I was choreographing it,” she said. “And I think that really helped me; to just listen to the music, think of the story and just create this art.”

Teghtmeyer said she didn’t know she would be playing Dicker-Brandeis until production started. She calls Dicker-Brandeis “an iconic woman in history” and approached the role with due respect.

“Having the opportunity to go onstage and physically show people what she did and the impact she made on society and the children in the ghetto, it was really hard to do but I just hope I did it justice and it definitely changed me as a performer,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Nanaimo District Secondary School’s dance program presents Terezin at Malaspina Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 17. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 7. Tickets $10 for adults, $8 for students, available at the door or in advance at the NDSS main office.

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