I was a little uneasy about the nature of this particular benefit having the potential to be like so many others, repetitive and depressing. Instead, I was moved as the Dallas arts community presented a wondrous performance, where twelve different arts organizations and over two hundred performers demonstrated the poignancy of individual human struggle and its parallel with exuberance and hope in a community. Producers Charles Santos of TITAS (Texas International Theatrical Arts Society) and Chris Heinbaugh (AT&T Performing Arts Center) successfully designed an evening filled with an incredible range of artistic medium, focusing their arrangement through a tripartite experience examining family, faith, and generation.
The construction of the program was fashioned around the omnipotent presence of the Turtle Creek Choir, the local chorale group that has lost 197 members to the ravaging AIDS disease. These men provided a living backdrop interwoven with speakers from the AIDS organizationbenefactors (AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services of Dallas and Resource Center Dallas), stirring vocal renditions, heady script-reading by actors in the Dallas community, and a compelling variety of dance in light of the web of reaction caused by this disease.
By donating their work and artistic spirit to this endeavor, the artists participating in this program leveled the playing field and created a tangible atmosphere of solidarity for a cause that would help validate each performer’s artistic claims.
This collaboration was a local venture, not only showcasing homegrown artists and organizations, but also highlighting and exposing how the city of Dallas responded to the on set of this awful disease. It unearthed stories of those who lived in the Dallas area during those formidable years, reflecting a frightening time of prejudice, uncertainty, and compassion. Actors gave voices to instances such as a father refusing to see his only son in a hospital, dying from complications of AIDS, while dancers Harry Feril and Albert Drake of Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP) engaged in an intimate duet expressing similarly raw qualities of despair.
But the instances of hatred, judgment, and lack of understanding were juxtaposed with another side of the artist’s response to AIDS. A bright, youthful optimism took the stage, when the first year SMU dancers arrived with their energetic and buoyant execution of jazz vocabulary. It appeared as if these individuals were engaged in an atmosphere of abundant life and exhilaration and simply gathering together to express their gratitude and acknowledgement of one another.
The levels of professionalism and technical proficiency remained at a high caliber throughout the show. The wide range of participating ages and organizations showed a consistency in the talent of the Dallas dance community that extends into all areas of its development. These included the incredibly energized and committed dancing of the Booker T. Washington High School students, the playfully articulated sequences by the Southern Methodist University dancers, the powerfully emotive instances from Dallas Black Dance Theatre , and the potent and unearthly exhibition by the Bruce Wood Dance Project artists. In this light, for any viewer unfamiliar with the Dallas arts scene, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to observe its unique potency and potential.
The voices of the local Dallas arts community provided audience members with a wonderfully relevant claim, connecting the remorse of the AIDS epidemic’s past with the continued problems and hope of the present. This performance was a reminder of the power of the artistic voice to reminisce, enlighten, and propose new attitudes for those inexplicable atrocities that plague our society.