Has Dance Been a Secret Weapon in the AIDS Struggle?

Written by | HIV, Lifestyle, Stage

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Performing at the Hudson Valley Dance Festival to benefit Dancers Responding to AIDS has a particular resonance for choreographer and dancer Caleb Teicher. Not only does his involvement support a worthy cause, the event takes place not far from where the 25-year-old took his first dance steps.

“I grew up in Mahopac in Putnam County, and part of the fun for me was that it’s pretty close to home,” said Teicher, who is inspired by both the setting and the impact of the show. “You know what you’re doing makes a difference. You know what you do has a direct impact on a group of people who need help and support. … The beautiful thing is that dance never fails to stimulate conversations.”

MOVETHECOMPANY

MOVETHECOMPANY

The conversation spurred by the festival is that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is far from over, and the performing arts community can step forward to fund a safety net of social services for those in need. “The arts as a presenting force and the arts as a community is a place to raise awareness, a place for us to heal, a place for us recognize the value of community,” Teicher said. “The arts are a way to say: we’re here, we’re alive and we’re continuing to try to make the world a better place.”

Founded in 1991 by former Paul Taylor Dance Company members Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez, Dancers Responding to AIDS is a program of the nonprofit organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The nonprofit was founded out of an urgent and vital need to use art as an outlet and conduit to create change. Several years after its inception, it became a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

“Our artistic community in New York City was being absolutely ravaged by HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and ’90s,” Denise Roberts Hurlin said, “and so many dancers were looking for a way to help, fight back and make a difference. We had to do something.”

Each year, Dancers Responding to AIDS holds the Fire Island Dance Festival overlooking the Great South Bay in July. In October, they present the Hudson Valley Dance Festival, set in a 125-year-old warehouse on the banks of the Hudson River, in Catskill, New York. To date, the events have raised more than $6.7 million collectively.

In addition to Caleb Teicher & Company, the festival has seen presentations from a diverse range of companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Martha Graham Dance Company, New York City Ballet and Paul Taylor Dance Company. High-caliber choreographers including Rob Ashford, Al Blackstone, Chase Brock, Joshua Bergasse, Merce Cunningham, Josh Prince, Dwight Rhoden, Troy Schumacher and Christopher Wheeldon have also lent their talents.

This October’s Hudson Valley Dance Festival featured performances by (among others) Bryn Cohn + Artists, Doug Varone and Dancers, Paul Taylor Dance Company and Pilobolus with additional choreography by Marcus McGregor, Ray Mercer and Troy Schumacher.

“We’ve discovered here in the Hudson Valley an authentic sense of caring and compassion. This community has graciously opened their hearts to us and we’re overjoyed to have such deep roots here now,” said Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

New York Theatre Ballet

New York Theatre Ballet

The funds raised also support The Actors Fund, which serves the performing arts community. They provide grants to more than 450 HIV/AIDS and family service organizations nationwide, which in turn provides access to medication, healthcare, counseling, nutritious meals and emergency financial assistance.

Teicher emphasizes that the events also raise awareness and understanding of HIV/AIDS through artistic expression. “Dance does good things for the world, when it’s for profit or nonprofit, but particularly when it’s for a charitable cause,” Teicher says. “What we do together really makes a difference.”  

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Last modified: December 10, 2018