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Lineage Dance Gala Benefits the Arts Through Dance

Published on Monday, September 23, 2013 | 4:40 am

Dance organizations usually offer classes for people who want to be dancers, but Lineage Performing Arts Center takes the art further by providing free outreach classes for people with Down Syndrome, Parkinson’s, and cancer, as well as opening the location to other non-profits for performances, events and fundraisers.

The gala weekend of Sept. 21 and 22 raised money to fund the outreach program and venue with a cocktail party and silent auction on Saturday and a champagne brunch on Sunday. The company presented three sets of dances to showcase their work at the Saturday event.

“We’re trying to make the Performing Arts Center open to others in Pasadena,” Peggy Burt, former dancer and board member, said. “We want to increase accessibility to the arts.”

Through dance, the company helps people connect with the emotions they feel when struggling with their own afflictions. The most-requested is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” from the set Healing Blue. The dance is based on a photographic essay taken by Annie Wells as she battled breast cancer while her sister Betsy was simultaneously losing her fight against ovarian cancer. Teya Wolvington and Michelle Kolb portrayed the sisters in the profoundly affecting piece.

“It was extraordinary to me,” Wells said. “They never met Betsy or saw the two of us together, but the things they do convey the close relationship, the bond that we had.” As she cared for her sister, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist was inspired to pursue a divinity degree and become a health care chaplain.

Hilary Thomas, artistic director, choreographer, dancer and founder of Lineage Dance in 1999, is also a science teacher at Flintridge Prep. Her interest in the functioning of the human brain led her to work with Parkinson’s disease patients. She brought in teachers from the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York, which first worked with Parkinson’s, to teach the teachers.

The Parkinson’s classes eventually led to accepting stroke survivors, and then to classes designed for adults and children with cancer or Down Syndrome. Kolb and Nancy Ware brought an exuberant and deeply joyful dance from the Parkinson’s class to the stage.

“Nancy Ware has a way of moving that is just gorgeous,” Thomas, who teaches the class, said. Ware danced seated on her walker as Kolb interacted with her. Pianist Shauna Toh provided the music.

In the 14 years of Lineage Dance, the organization has worked with 123 dancers and partnered with more than 300 non-profits. The three-year-old Performing Arts Center has seen 6,400 people pass through the doors. Even Wendy Lamson Collier, Hillary’s dance teacher from Ellensburg, Wash., made it to the gala to support her pupil.

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