Broadway Cares and So Does the Whole Dance Community

December 12, 2007

Before there was DRA there was just a lot of memorial services and tributes for our friends and colleagues who died of AIDS. I remember one such performance for the wonderful dance writer Barry Laine in 1988. I was preparing to dance in it (since I had known him pretty well), and Arnie Zane (who himself had AIDS) was preparing to speak, so we were both at the tech rehearsal at P.S. 122. I was two months pregnant, and not yet showing so it was my little secret. Arnie and I were sitting together and I blurted out, “Arnie, I’m pregnant!” I was so happy. He was in a different mood. He said, “You must have a lot of hope.” I realized how drastically different our situations were: He was about to lose his life and I was about to give life.

I’m glad those days of AIDS being tantamount to a death sentence are over. (See Joseph Carman’s “The Generation Lost to AIDS” in our September issue.)

    Dancers Responding to AIDS, which is a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, was co-founded by Hernando Cortez and Denise Roberts Hurlin in 1991. It has raised money to support medical costs for lots of people in lots of ways. So it’s fitting that the dance community come out to support DRA, both by performing and buying tickets, last Monday night. Cedar Lake generously donated its performance space and staff to DRA’s “Dance From the Heart,” a varied evening of dances of different genres. And fittingly, it was introduced by Bill T. Jones, who has, all these years, kept Arnie’s name in the name of his company. He remembers; we remember.

    For me, the fact that this was a DRA event cast a different light on some of the pieces. Cedar Lake performed a searing excerpt of Ohad Naharin’s Decadance (the section from Naharin’s Virus) in which the dancers, one at a time, seem to be jumping out of their skin. I’ve seen it before, but suddenly it looked like people with AIDS who are tormented by their physical condition. And in Tudor’s elegiac The Leaves Are Fading, even the title seemed to refer to the plague. ABT’s Stella Abrera and Sascha Radetsky gave a beautifully wistful performance that seemed to be about realizing that their love was finite. Even Larry Keigwin’s new piece Agua, with six towel-clad dancers cavorting to Mozart, could have been the wishful day dreams of dancers condemned to AIDS.

    Not all the pieces on the program fit into this interpretation, and not all pieces were seen by me, as I had to leave early. But the evening gave me a chance to pause and think about the dancers I’ve known and loved whose lives were cut short by AIDS. I thank DRA for keeping them in our minds, and for helping those among us with the virus.