“Bittersweet” was commissioned by the National Domestic Violence Hotline to premiere at their 25th Anniversary Gala in Washington DC. The piece explores my bittersweet understanding of my survivorship, acknowledging that while becoming a survivor meant so many impossibly hard moments, it also created the person I am today. I like to say that I’m not proud of being a survivor, but I am proud of what being a survivor makes me - someone who is deeply empathetic, curious, and forgiving. Personally, so much of what being a survivor is to me means learning to let go of all of the things I “could have been“, and doing that by deciding to wholeheartedly celebrate and empower the person I am today, a person who was largely shaped by the experiences I had becoming a survivor.

-Leah Zeiger (Choreographer and Co-Director)

  • Leah Zeiger
  • Alexandra Velasco
  • Leah Zeiger
  • Leah Zeiger
  • Alexandra Velasco
  • Thaïs Castralli
    Director of Photography
  • Craig Boydston
    Director of Photography
  • Sierra Henry
    Key Cast
  • Amanda Sun
    Key Cast
  • Amina Yufanyi
    Key Cast
  • Angie Bauer
  • Max Berlin
    Original Score
  • Leah Zeiger
  • Alexandra Velasco
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Short, Other
  • Genres:
    Dance, Coming of Age
  • Runtime:
    6 minutes 11 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    6,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    16mm, 8mm
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Leah Zeiger, Alexandra Velasco

Leah Zeiger:

is a choreographer, dancer, and activist based in Los Angeles. As a survivor of a teenage abusive relationship, Leah's work is largely derived from her lived experience as well as embodied research in the survivor community. Leah’s methodology - Body Memory - invokes somatic principles, improvisational scores, and body-based research to explore the ways in which our bodies hold memory and how those memories shape our life experience. She recently completed the Los Angeles Contemporary Choreographer’s Lab, in which she choreographed an original duet.

In 2022, she was commissioned by the National Domestic Violence Hotline to choreograph for their 25th Anniversary Gala in Washington D.C., which has since also been commissioned to become the dance film "Bittersweet".

Leah recently premiered her newest work "You Live In My Spine" in Los Angeles. “You Live In My Spine” is the first evening length work Leah has choreographed since 2019, when she premiered “Once It All Ends” at the Awakenings Art Gallery in Chicago, IL.


Alexandra Velasco:

is a bilingual filmmaker and multimedia artist from Mexico City.

Her background as a visual artist empowers her to create bold avant-garde surrealist films with underlying social critique. She is interested in themes concerning gender-specific trauma juxtaposed with the beauty and tenderness of this world.

Her art has screened at museums, galleries and festivals worldwide and been featured in Vogue, Elle, i-D and IndieWire. She has directed music videos and tour visuals for indie acts and was director of branded content for Sunstock Solar Festival.

Her latest arthouse horror short, “The Seventh Circle,” which deals with themes of guilt and isolation, is online at NoBudge and Directors Notes.

She is in the post-production phase for the proof of concept of her arthouse vampire film set in the underground party scene of Mexico City about a woman battling the darkness within before it devours her whole and turns her into a monster thirsting for revenge.

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Director Statement

"When I was fifteen, I wrote this in my journal: 'I know that people do survive this. I know that people get through it, and come out the other side. But I don’t believe that I will survive.'

I stand before you 11 years later, and am happy to report that I was wrong. I did survive.

I have found that forgiveness, empathy, and joy are the foundational pillars on which my survivorship thrives. These pillars are not the same for everyone - each survivor story looks wildly different.

When you zoom out and look at all of these stories as a whole, it becomes a kaleidoscope - each story a unique fragment of colorful glass, once broken, but now an irreplaceable part of a tapestry that is enhancing and bedazzling the world simply by being there, simply by surviving.

This is my contribution to the kaleidoscope. This is my story."

-Leah Zeiger