We’re talking to Gentry Isaiah George in our latest #DIYwithDYD feature. #DIYwithDYD is a series that follows creative individuals. We learn how they made their amazing projects happen. Gentry is a 24 year-old dancer that went to the famous Juilliard School of Drama, Dance and Music. He started ZEST COLLECTIVE Contemporary Performance Art, which is a project-based company that examines issues of perception and identity in contemporary society through use of the body as a medium for storytelling.
DYD: Why did you decide to become a dancer?
Gentry: I began dancing when I was eight years old. Soon I learned that dance could be my passport around the world. I discovered that this lifestyle would continually afford me the opportunity to engage with positive and creative people.
Dance became a poetic language for me.
DYD: Tell us about ZEST COLLECTIVE Contemporary Performance Art. What are its origins and where is it going?
Gentry: ZEST COLLECTIVE Contemporary Performance Art is fueled by the creative investigation of movement as experienced through exploring the body’s response to external and internal impulses. Using the body as the primary medium of storytelling ZEST examines issues of perception and identity in contemporary society. I founded the company on the 2nd of November in 2013.
ZEST has had a number of live performances throughout New York City including shows at Harlem Arts Festival, RAW : NYC, Salvatore LaRussa Dance Theatre’s Free Sunday Performance Art Series, and the 16th Annual Harlem Book Fair at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Most recently my company was the cover feature in Dance Mogul Magazine. Never before has a dance company had an entire magazine devoted exclusively to profiling the company’s members, mission, performances and ethos as did ZEST’s December 2014 Issue.
ZEST premiered an installation work – A Matter of Heart (AMOH) on February 21st at The Alchemical Theatre Laboratory. AMOH is a performance based collaboration with Visual Artist Brian Michael Reed. In January 2015, I was commissioned by Reed to create an enhanced and redesigned exhibition performance to showcase the work’s continued growth and development as a collaborative art experience. The work premiered to a live improvisational sound score by electronic performance duo Pax Humana.
My wish is that this year proves to be one of dynamic development. I look forward to interacting with different communities, expanding ZEST’s repertory in addition to engaging in other collaborative and creative endeavors.
DYD: You have a very interesting way of promoting ZEST COLLECTIVE. We’ve observed you using social media like Instagram to take pictures and videos of dancers while they are practicing. We want to see the finished performances because the photos and videos are so beautiful. Where did this idea come from?
Gentry: My idea is to engage as many people as possible. When I began the company we had no funding so social media outlets served as unique means to advertise. All rehearsal procedures are documented and shared. What you see is a visual and digital diary showing our progressive steps towards success.
There are a lot of fine details that go into creating a work of art. It is my hope that viewers will enjoy following our creative process.
Our culture is bombarded with celebrity gossip, lust, and propaganda and it is my pleasure to create and share work that encourages others to not only dream but celebrate what it means to be human and creatively free.
DYD: What three character traits do you need to excel in your field?
Gentry: Optimism, Generosity, and Creativity.
DYD: Do you think that it’s possible to change the world with dance?
Gentry: Yes. My work deals with the sublime. I like to give my audiences a subtle transformative experience. My works deals a lot with the ideas of bliss, serenity and human interactivity.
I am always looking for innovative ways to share with my Dance Artists and audience members the historical identities of some of the world’s most influential artists whilst also creating an abstracted narrative of inspired ideas. My goal is to continually encourage deep knowledge building and research skills derived from studies in Art, History, and Literature.
DYD: What have been some of the difficulties that you’ve had to face along your journey?
Gentry: I myself also dance for other companies including Lustig Dance Theatre, Malcolm Low / Formal Structure and Collage Dance Collective so finding time in my own schedule to be available to produce has been “interesting” to say the least.
Ideally it would be great to have a big beautiful building and the opportunity to see my dancers on a more frequent basis. We are a community of freelance artists and our schedules are varied. Finding and affording time and space to create has been challenging although never impossible.
Additionally I should like to pay my dancers for their beautiful work. We’ve made some proceeds and have a long way to go.
DYD: What have been some of the highlights that you’ve experienced?
Gentry: I work with the world’s most talented artists. Seeing them in rehearsal warms my heart. When my dancers take the stage I am exhilarated. I experience the building of a legacy and a number of sensations that are so rich and peaceful I can do nothing but smile.
DYD: This feature falls in our “Do It Yourself” series. We’re trying to get young people to see different ways of handling their futures. What advice would you give to young people about starting their own projects and/or businesses?
Gentry: Choose to see your life as an adventure. Opportunities are never granted, they are sought after and created. Respect contemporary traditions and seek to do more.
Dreams are only indicators for promised success.
Photos by Cody Perkins, Eduardo Patino and Greg Caparell