dancing for a cause at the pasadena arts council
Dance is generally considered to be an expression of human movement, a way to communicate with others through the delicate sweep of an arm or a passionate grand jetÃ©. But how often is it used as a gesture to move humans for the greater good?
Such is the case with Lineage Dance, a dance company established in 1999 to raise money for a variety of community organizations, as well as make the arts more accessible to everyone.
It all started when Hilary Thomas, the company’s creator and artistic director, produced a benefit concert in Pasadena to raise money for an organization called Young and Healthy. The concert was very successful, not only financially, but from an artistic perspective as well.
“We had so much fun, raised lots of money and introduced contemporary dance to many people who had never seen it before,” says Thomas. “A few months later I decided to hold another fundraiser. Then things really snowballed from there and within a year I had established Lineage Dance.”
The company operates under the auspices of the Pasadena Arts Council and is based in Los Angeles, but travels where needed to help raise money for nonprofits. In July 2003, Lineage conducted a national tour, in which it raised over $15,000 for charities in states across the country.
“It is so wonderful to be able to hand a large check over to a charity,” says Thomas. “Most dance companies are struggling to stay afloat financially, so it is very cool to be able to see the name Lineage Dance on a major donor list or plaque. It is also very exciting to be able to perform for new audiences all over the country.”Some of their shows are even designed to match the recipient organization so that the performance isn’t just another show, but something representative of and significant to that particular cause. “Healing Blue” is one such show that was inspired by the lives of women who have battled breast cancer.
“There are so many incredible organizations out there and it is so rewarding to be able to help in any way we can,” says Thomas. “I hope that we will continue to get people all over the country, and hopefully all over the world, excited about dance. So often people come to our performances to support a certain cause and they admit that they were not too excited about coming to the performance. When we speak to them at the end of the show, they cannot wait to get out and see more of dance.”
The company performs a blend of classical ballet, modern and jazz and is built on the backs (literally) of seven women: Peggy Burt, the company’s manager, Thomas, Caterina Mercante, associate director, Tara Mosier, Monica Farnam, Rebecca Levy and Marcile Vadell-Strickland.
“The women of Lineage Dance are incredibly strong and it is so much fun to create innovative lifts and weight-bearing movements,” says Thomas. “I often come up with lifts that seem quite possible in my mind and realize that I might be pushing the limits of gravity a tad too far. But thankfully the dancers are always willing to try anything, no matter how humanly impossible it seems.”