LOS ANGELES — The inaugural Dance for Life festival, recently presented at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, is giving the fight against HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 a new boost and organizers are hoping they have started a new dance tradition in Los Angeles.
Longtime activist and co-creator of the festival, Phill Wilson said Dance for Life was inspired by the Fire Island Dance Festival, which since 1995 has raised over $300 million for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“I’ve been a patron of that festival for years and I thought we should bring something like that to Los Angeles, and particularly now, when the dance scene here is like going crazy,” Wilson said.
Phill said dance companies jumped at the chance to perform at the festival, and the team is grateful the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center agreed to provide the venue.
“We called them and we said we want to do this festival. We’ve never done a festival before. We don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out. Will you host us?” explained Wilson. “They immediately said, ‘Yes.’ And that’s been the response all around.”
Dance for Life brought together a diverse group of dance companies performing in an equally diverse range of styles and genres.
Festival co-creator and presenter Desmond Richardson said the hope is to make Dance for Life a yearly or even a biannual event.
“Each year we’ll try to find either another venue or come back to the same venue,” Richardson said. “We’re just really hoping that it just gets ingrained into the minds of the community here.”
Richardson said another hope is to remind people that the fight against HIV/AIDS continues even amidst our present COVID-19 pandemic, both of which have impacted communities of color disproportionately.
“We’re doing a fight against HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, but there are other organizations that need our support, too, in the arts and as the arts are slowly coming back, we want people to be invigorated and inspired.”
Wilson, who was diagnosed with HIV in the early 1980s, hopes that younger generations will continue the fight against the disease.
“I was infected and began my life journey with HIV at basically the same age of some of these dancers, and so this marriage of HIV and AIDS and COVID-19 is not just about activism, it’s personal,” he said.
In the wake of a successful inaugural Dance for Life festival, the wheels are already in motion for the next one.