Zazel-Chavah O'Garra is an accomplished dancer, actor, model, and a brain tumor survivor!! Zazel-Chavah O’Garra is now putting her gifts in service to others as a dance therapist and motivational speaker.

      Early in her career, thanks to a combination of determination, hard work, positive attitude, and charm, Zazel established a thriving career in the performing arts, with a body of work extending from the concert stage to magazine publications. A graduate of the High School of Performing Arts (New York), Zazel also attended the University of Michigan and SUNY Empire State College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance performance. A Presidential Arts Scholar, she performed with Mark Dendy Dance Company and Alvin Ailey II, choreographed fashion shows, and conducted master classes in Modern, Jazz, and African Dance in the United States, Europe, and her hometown of Montserrat, West Indies. Zazel also performed in numerous stage productions in both the United States and Europe, including Body & Soul, The Wiz, Sophisticated Ladies, The Dark Star from Harlem (The Josephine Baker Story),Stars and Stripes, For Colored Girls, and Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. Her modeling credits include the covers of two issues of Essence Magazine, as well as several catalogue and runway jobs. She also appeared in national and regional commercials, numerous industrials and supplied voice-overs for a number of ads. Zazel also served as a movement coach for the soap opera “As the World Turns.”

      At the outset of 2001, Zazel began to consider the shift from performance to education. Earlier in her life she had served as a teaching assistant in African Dance at the University of Michigan, and she had also been hired to hold dance workshops in the Ann Arbor public school system and had started a dance program for the New York City Parks Department at St. John’s Recreation Center in Brooklyn. She had loved helping students access their creativity, energy, confidence, and joy. Now it seemed time to share her experience and wisdom. Later that year, having been very profoundly affected by the events of 9/11, she also began realize how fragile our lives really are; seeing there were no guarantees, she knew she wanted to give back to the world as soon as possible.

      Then, in December 2001, 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. After receiving extensive treatment at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation (East Orange, NJ) and New York University Rusk Medical Center, Zazel overcame the speech impediment, cognitive loss, and paralysis. She still receives physical therapy to restore strength, balance, and mobility in her right foot. She currently takes yoga and Pilates to maintain her flexibility, balance and strength.

      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. One of her objectives is to give those with disabilities a vehicle for self-expression, helping them build a sense of self-esteem and self-reliance, while providing 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.

      Thanks to Connectv/Downtown Community Television, which offers courses in documentary filmmaking for the disabled, Zazel has produced and edited “Ready Or Not” about boys with different disabilities as they graduate and attempt to make plans for their future after high school which was featured at an evening at HBO studios in New York.

      As a teaching artist Zazel currently teaches “Coping Skills Thru Movement” programs for developmentally disabled and mentally ill disabled individuals. Under the auspices of the Brain Tumor Foundation, of which she is a member, Zazel facilitates groups and leads classes in dance therapy. Her movement programs are for the disabled and non-disabled alike.

      She has also been able to share her story both in print and on stage. The John F. Kennedy Center’s Opening Stages Newsletter, Rolling out News, Heart & Soul magazine, New York Resident Newspaper and ABLE Newspaper Positively For, By & About the Disabled and WOMENS WORLD MAGAZINE has featured her in their publications.

      Zazel also played to a packed house in “Nothing like a Dame” at New York’s Schubert Theater on Broadway, a benefit and fundraiser for the Phyllis Newman
Women’s Health Initiative and the Actor’s Fund featuring celebrities from stage and screen. Zazel was also a featured performer in the National Minorities with Disabilities Coalition 2nd Annual Greater Newark Black Disabled Arts Festival where she performed a dynamic dance and drama presentation adapted to her TBI injury. Zazel and seven other performers told their stories of living with a disability in Inside/Out voices from the disability community directed by Ping Chong, performances were held at at the Kennedy Center and World Bank, Washington, DC, Times Center Theatre, New York City, Roundhouse Theatre, Bethesda Maryland, Amaryllis Theatre, Philadelphia and the Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont.

      Zazel has been acknowledged for her work, having received the Heller Foundation Award from the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, John Dales Award from the Screen Actors Guild and the Patient Advocate Scholarship.

      Zazel appeared on the Dr. OZ television show to share with others how to recognize symptoms of a brain tumor.

      Wishing to provide even more support for those challenged by traumatic illness and disabilities, Zazel took part in the Patient Congress on Capital Hill. As a winner of the Patient Advocate Scholarship, Zazel was invited to the White House and voiced her concerns about the health insurance crisis in this country and was also asked to speak to congress and legislative officials about measures to safeguard individuals who are stricken with a traumatic illness. As her passion for assisting others increased, Zazel pursued and received her Masters Degree in Social Work from Fordham University in Spring 2008.

      Zazel received national recognition when she was awarded the 2010-2011 teaching artist fellowship from VSA, the International Organization on Arts and disability. As a teaching artist fellow Zazel designed arts programs in schools and hospitals for children and adults with disabilities. The final project was the “Start with the Arts Festival” held at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC where each teaching artist fellows taught artistic workshops for individuals with disabilities.

      Under the auspices of the Brain Tumor Foundation, of which she has been a member, Zazel assists in many of the events and programs held by the foundation. She is active in promoting the “Early Detection Campaign” in which the foundation offers free MRI brain scans to those living in New York City. Zazel also supports Voices Against Brain Cancer an organization committed to finding a cure for this disease. Being an active member, she takes part in the JOIN THE Voices RUN WALK held every year and is ambassador and spokesperson for the organization.

      Zazel proudly performed and spoke for the New Jersey Disability Pride Parade, a parade which celebrates pride in the disability community. The parade emphasizes “Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity.”

      Zazel continues to demonstrate strength, pride and fortitude, embracing her disability with courage and beauty.

      Zazel is a member of AFTRA, SAG, Equity and is represented by Cunningham-Escott-Slevin-Dipene talent agency for commercials, voice overs and print.