Hilary Thomas is the artistic director of Linage Dance, an unusual modern dance company based in Pasadena, California. They travel around the country raising money for charitable organizations. This weekend they will be performing in Northwest Houston to raise funds for MD Anderson Cancer Center. Thomas caught us up on the hows and whys of dancing to raise bucks.
How did you get the idea of doing fundraising dance company? Most dance companies need to fundraise to stay afloat themselves?
HT: Growing up in Pasadena, my parents were always very involved with local charities. I wanted to get involved in something similar, but I knew that I had no money to offer. The only thing I could offer was my dancing. In 1999 I decided to put on a benefit performance for an organization called “Young and Healthy.” It was very successful and led to another benefit performance and then another. I established the company soon after and we haven’t stopped since. In the fall of 2005 we celebrated our 100th performance.
How do you pick the organizations to help? Do you each have favorite causes?
HT: There is such an abundance of worthy causes out there. Sometimes we approach the organization and sometimes they contact us. Because our current tour focuses specifically on breast cancer, most of our recent organizations have been breast cancer/health related.
You mention that you want to expose people to modern dance. And, you are right in thinking that most average Americans have not heard or seen much in the way of this artform. What kind of feedback do you get from these new audiences?
HT: Because we rarely perform for typical dance audiences, many people who come to our shows have never seen modern dance before. Often we hear things like, “I only came to support the organization,” or “my wife dragged me to the show.” But they leave saying, “if only I had known how great it was going to be, I would have brought more people with me.” Our audiences usually leave feeling quite excited about dance.
Can you explain the details of how a fundraising dance company works? You mention that after expenses are taken out of the take the rest goes to the designated charity. How do you keep your costs minimal so you have money to give?
HT: Each performance is set up differently. Everything depends on the size of the organization, the venue, and how far we’ve traveled to get there. Aside from covering our costs for each performance, we rely on grants and private donations. We still need to fundraise for ourselves like every other dance company out there.
Tell us how a dance company from Pasadena, California ended up in suburban Houston?
HT: The vice president of the board of the Houston Family Arts Center is the sister of one of my dancers. This is our first show in Houston, so we are very excited.
Does your concert usually relate to the charity? Tell us about the show this weekend.
HT: This tour of Healing Blue is the first time that our show has directly related to the charity. I interviewed seven women across the country who have battled breast cancer and created dances inspired by their stories. Their interviews will be projected behind the dancers throughout the show. Healing Blue premiered at the Pasadena civic in November 2005 and we were able to donate $28,000 to two local breast cancer centers. We’re so excited to raise money for MD Anderson because one of the women interviewed in Healing Blue mentions that MD Anderson is one of the greatest cancer centers in the country, so we thought it would be a perfect connection.
What’s next for your company?
HT: Our 2006-2007 season consists of mostly local performances until next summer when we will tour again. We are currently working on our next show, Dancing Through the Ages, which is a study of people in different stages of their lives and their experience of aging. The performance is set to premiere in Pasadena in February.
Thanks for the chat and we wish you the best of luck on your endeavors.
Linage Dance Company presents Healing Blue on August 4th and 5th at 7:30 pm, a benefit for MD Anderson Cancer Center at the Houston Family Arts Center, Liberty Revival Church, 16200 State Hwy 249, Tickets are $10.