How the Dance World is Responding to Orlando

The Orlando massacre hit everyone hard. It was on my mind last week when I saw Jane Comfort’s You Are Here, her premiere about the urban experience presented by American Dance Institute. The piece had a scene where two male dancers were grooving together as though at a gay bar. Darrin Wright and Paul Hamilton’s dancing to club music was sensual, seductive and delicious to watch. Although I knew Comfort must have planned this scene way before the Orlando shooting, my unconscious reaction was to expect gunshots. I cringed and covered my ears.

Paul Hamilton and Darrin Wright in Jane Comfort's You Are Here, photo by Paul Court
Paul Hamilton and Darrin Wright at The Kitchen in Jane Comfort’s You Are Here, photo by Paula Court

In order to get a sense of the dance community’s reaction in Orlando, I emailed my Youth American Grand Prix colleague Dierdre Miles Burger, who is director of the Orlando Ballet School. Although she has been away from Orlando running a summer intensive, she is in tune with the feelings of her school and her city. Below are sections of her reply:

“We are, as you can imagine, reeling from the tragedy. The club Pulse was often frequented by our dancers and their friends, but thankfully none of our dancers were there that night. A dear friend and supporter of the Orlando Ballet, Ron Legler, was integral in the founding of the club, so we truly feel a connection. Many of the dancers and supporters have gone to the vigils as has Robert Hill, our artistic director.”

Candlelight vigil held in Orlando, attended by some of the Orlando Ballet dancers, photo courtesy Dierdre Miles Burger
Candlelight vigil held in Orlando, attended by some of the Orlando Ballet dancers, photo courtesy Dierdre Miles Burger

“It is a painful time in our community right now. Orlando is oddly small for such a sprawling city, especially in the arts and LGBT community.”

Orlando’s pain has reverberated across the country, and there are many gatherings to commemorate the tragedy. Here in NYC, Danspace Project joins with New York Theatre Ballet and the Poetry Project to mourn Orlando victims. They are holding a Gun Violence Awareness Vigil with performances, on Wednesday, June 29. #loveisloveisloveislove

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