Dancer Kevin Boseman's cancer diagnosis a few years ago changed the way he saw life. "What I realized was worrying about things like my career or what is the next chapter of my life are not important," he says. "The real value is in our relationships. Also, life is so short. If there is something you really want to do, there's no time to waste."
Boseman, who danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Martha Graham Dance Company before spending 10 years doing Broadway tours and regional shows, is now in remission. But he lost his brother, actor Chadwick Boseman, to colon cancer last August.
So it was particularly poignant when Fredrick Earl Mosley, founder of Earl Mosley's Diversity of Dance, Inc., called to ask if he'd perform a work for this year's Dance Against Cancer benefit. Mosley was one of the first people Boseman met when he landed in New York City almost 30 years ago to begin his dance career. They've been friends ever since.
Boseman's voice breaks as he explains why this performance means so much to him. "I was blessed last year to spend the last five months of my brother's life with him," he says. "But I've also been away from my friends and my arts community. It's been a struggle to come together and create art."
Dance Against Cancer was founded 11 years ago by New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht and Erin Fogarty, director of programming for Manhattan Youth Ballet. Both lost a parent to cancer. The yearly performances have since raised $2.1 million dollars for cancer research and patient support services in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
Kevin Boseman performing
This year's event, called Dance Against Cancer Outside, takes place June 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. Hosted by MTV's Nev Schulman, a long-time dance supporter who took second place on "Dancing with the Stars," it will feature a special tribute to first responders, medical workers, educators, mentors and the heroes lost to COVID-19.
In addition to hosting, Schulman will also perform with NYCB's Tiler Peck. Others slated to perform are NYCB's Roman Mejia, Miriam Miller and Sara Mearns; Martha Graham's Lloyd Knight; American Ballet Theatre's Hee Seo, Devon Teuscher and Thomas Forster; international ballroom duo Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina; and tap star Ayodele Casel.
Boseman will perform a piece choreographed by Mosley to "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, which will be sung by The Boys & Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble. He will be accompanied by students from National Dance Institute.
Boseman, 48, feels he will gain as much as he gives by doing the event. "I think I will be the oldest dancer there, and I wanted to be around that youthful vibrancy," he explains.
Of Chadwick, whose laughter and singing he says he misses most, he reveals he was proudest that his brother "in the midst of all his success, remained very grounded."
For any dancer who is facing a cancer diagnosis, Boseman advises that they develop a support system. "People who will be there for you, not social media followers," he says. "Also, trust your oncologist. And when you feel good, do whatever is fun for you and don't isolate yourself."