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East West: Local Artists' Response to Gang Violence

William Roden, New Dawn Studios


The gang violence in Salinas is felt by nearly everyone from families to teachers to clergy and law enforcement.   They are the inspiration for local choreographer Fran Spector’s East West.

East West is a performance piece that combines rap and classical music with dance, visual images and spoken word.  It’s based on interviews with gang members, those affected by gangs and young adults from Rancho Cielo – an educational and vocational campus in East Salinas for at risk youth.  In anticipation of East West performances this weekend in Salinas and Marina, I interviewed Fran Spector

FS:  East West is a response to the problem of gang violence in our community.  For many years, I’ve been working on multidisciplinary pieces with my collaborator, William Rodin who is the owner of New Dawn Studios in Carmel.  He and I were interested in looking at ways that dance and the arts might heighten awareness of issues and contribute toward solutions.   

LL:  Were these at risk young people open to this?

FS:  I was prepared for resistance.  What I found was something very very  different.  I found that there was vulnerability and eagerness to share their stories, a desire to be heard. 

LL:  Your work is like a docu-dance style.  You’ve created similar performances about the ocean and John Steinbeck.  In a way you are becoming a reporter and the dance is the truth? 

FS:  Well I hope so.  I think that by creating a multisensory experience where the right brain and left brain have a simultaneous opportunity that is an original art form, it’s a new art form.  You have to tastefully combine the visual images, the spoken word, the music, the dance, in a way that is almost like a whole orchestra.

LL:  How do you see this performance coming up as a catalyst for change?

FS:  That is my big question now.  I  think that it might be impactful in several ways. One is that at Rancho Cielo when I taught the workshops and did the interviews, I realized that there was a need for an ongoing dance program at Rancho Cielo.  I’m working to go there weekly and teach classes that are just movement classes but I hope the next step will be dance as a vehicle for self-expression.  And so that actually the people at Rancho Cielo could express their own stories.  Another way that dance can be a catalyst for conversation is by bringing people together around a shared experience about a topic.  So this shared experience, if we can guide it, might be a way for diverse audiences to come together and dialogue.  And that is the beginning.  

Fran Spector is Artistic Director at Spector Dance.

East West  Performances

Friday, October 24 at 7:30 pm

Sherwood Hall  

940 North Main Street, Salinas


Saturday, October 25 at 8:00pm

Spector Dance 

3343 Paul Davis Drive, Marina

Lisa Ledin joined KAZU in 2009, bringing with her a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise in local arts and culture. She is a voice of KAZU's underwriting announcements and also hosts Morning Edition every Friday, and Weekend Edition Saturdays.