Zazel-Chavah O’Garra is the founder and Artistic Director of ZCO/DANCEPROJECT, a physically integrated dance company whose goal is to create performances that are witty, soulful, intelligent, powerful and intriguing.
A native New Yorker, Zazel attended the University of Michigan and Empire State College where she received a Bachelor of Arts in dance performance. A Presidential Arts Scholar, she performed with Mark Dendy Dance Company and Alvin Ailey Wksp II, as well as performing Off-Broadway and in numerous musical theatre stage productions in the U.S. and abroad. She has also served as movement coach for “As the World Turns”. As a professional model, she has appeared on two Essence Magazine covers and several other print and runway jobs. She also appeared in national, regional commercial industrials and supplied voice overs for a number of ads.
In December 2002, Zazel discovered that she had meningioma, a benign brain tumor, which proceeded to paralyze her right side and resulted in a slight speech impediment and cognitive loss.
Consciously deciding to make best use of this debilitating circumstance, Zazel transitioned into teaching dance as a healing form to the disabled and non-disabled alike, continuing to share her infectiously positive and fun spirit with others. Her objective is to give those with disabilities a vehicle for self-expression, help them build a sense of self-esteem and self-reliance, and provide them with opportunities for community recognition and acclaim. She is also passionate about raising public awareness about the challenges facing and the gifts offered by those with disabilities.
Zazel can be heard on numerous podcasts and webinars including the National Foundation for the Arts, Preparing Students with Disabilities for Careers in the Arts: Approaches for Arts Educators, and most recently appeared on the Dr. Oz show to share her life as a brain tumor survivor. Wanting to share her story, she performs Inside/Out (voices of the disability community), directed by Ping Chong, nationwide.
Zazel is the recipient of the VSA-John F. Kennedy- National Teaching Artist fellowship and was named the inaugural member of the White House Disability Liaison.
Her recent performances include: This/Ability-Samuel Beckett Theatre, Theatre Breaking Through Barriers, Undesirable Elements-Lincoln Center, Bodystorming Access Cooper Hewitt Museum, Respectability-Positive Exposure 109, Judson Memorial Church, Secret Histories -NYPL Lincoln Center, Imagining an Accessible NYC and the music video “THE BIGGER PLANS PROJECT.” Professional Affiliations: Arts and Education Committee-Board of Education, Disability Task Force, DANCE/NYC, SAG-AFTRA/PWD, Ambassador-Voices Against Brain Cancer and Divaswithdisabilities. Zazel holds an MSW from Fordham University and is a member of SAG-AFTRA, EQUITY.