Photo Credit: DRA
Last Saturday, a 120 year-old wooden warehouse in upstate New York was transformed into a big-hearted and philanthropic performance space. Inside, some of the finest dancers in the business travelled to the northern shores of the Hudson River to Catskill, New York, to dance for a wonderful cause.
Each year since 2013 on a weekend in October, Dancers Responding to AIDS has performed series of dance concerts known as the Hudson Valley Dance Festival. Over the five years of the festival’s existence, it has raised over half a million dollars in charitable funds.
According to DRA, “the money raised helps Dancers Responding to AIDS and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS provide grants to AIDS and family service organizations nationwide, including ten based in the Hudson Valley.”
Highly anticipated performances included world class dancers and companies. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater choreographer and dancer Robert Battle’s Strange Humors, Rob Ashford’s excerpt from the Dream Ballet from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, as well as New York Theatre Ballet’s presentation of pioneer Merce Cunningham’s Cross Currents were some of the big ticket performances.
Strange Humors, as described by DRA and Ailey, explored, “an explosive confrontation of wits and prowess, set to a fiery score of African hand drumming and Middle Eastern folk music.”
Choreographer Rob Ashford, who has won both the TONY® and the EMMY®, choreographed the acclaimed production of Carousel at the Lyric Opera of Chicago back in 2014. The excerpt from the musical’s Dream Ballet for the Hudson Valley Dance Festival performance featured dancers Abigail Simon and Marty Lawson.
Lyric Opera’s Carousel. Photo Credit: Lyric Opera of Chicago
Modern Dance trailblazer Merce Cunningham’s Cross Currents was, “inspired by the way dancers’ paths frequently and rhythmically intersect.”
Other performances included appearances from companies like Cirio Collective, Manuel Vignoulle – M/motions, MOVETHECOMPANY, New York Theatre Ballet, Tayeh Dance and MOMIX.
Dancers Responding To AIDS was established in 1991 by Denise Roberts Hurlin and Hernando Cortez, both former dancers from the Paul Taylor Dance Company who wanted to take action to assist those dealing with the AIDS crisis. The charitable company was formed in conjunction with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. According to the DRA’s mission statement, the company strives, “to mobilize the unique abilities within the entertainment industry to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.”
“By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre and dance communities,” says DRA of their co-collaborator BC/EFA, “since 1988, Broadway Cares has raised more than $285 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.”
Nick Kenkel’s original piece from 2016’s HVDF. Photo Credit: Daniel Roberts
In addition to the Hudson Valley Dance Festival, Dancers Responding to AIDS also presents three other annual events: the Fire Island Dance Festival, The Inside Dance Series (which, in 2017, featured intimate performances and discussions with New York City Ballet’s Jared Angle, Ashley Bouder, Harrison Coll, Sara Mearns, and Troy Schumacher), and The Stars Of Tomorrow invitational.
To find out more about Dancers Responding To AIDS and the 450 HIV/AIDS and family service organizations they support nationwide— including The Actors Fund, the Phyllis Newmen Women’s Health Initiative, the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic, and the Dancers’ Resource, check out their website here.