Deborah Brockus is well known in Los Angeles as a dancer, choreographer and producer of the LA Dance Festival and other dance series. In 2015 she added the Dance/BACK series to her long list of accomplishments produced by her organization, Brockus Project. The title says it all, Dance/BACK is dance artists giving back to the Los Angeles community and to people in need around the world whether they are victims of poverty, natural disasters, famine or war.
The first Dance/BACK performance raised over $800 for Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries affected by endemic diseases. The second year raised over 20 bags of supplies that was donated the Family Rescue Center. This past year there has been an endless string of natural and man-made disasters, including catastrophic fires here in California, an earthquake in Mexico City, and three category 5 hurricanes effecting the south, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There are also millions of misplaced people due to wars in the Middle East and Africa, and famine brought on by drought. Because it is so difficult to choose which group to help, Brockus has decided to give people choices. The organizations and causes include: Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, the Santa Rosa fire victims, the earthquake in Mexico, the Women and Children’s Shelter of Canoga Park, and Youth Arts Education.
Dance/BACK will include three slightly different programs at the Brockus Project Studios on Friday, November 10, 11 and 12 (more information below). Artists who are donating their work include Charlotte Smith, Andrew Pearson, Dominique McDougal, Pia Vinson, Jess Harper, Leah Hamel, Palm Dance, Project21 Dance, BrockusRed, and Alan Perez. The Saturday, November 11 program consists of young performers, some of whom Brockus teaches as part of an after-school program funded by a grant from the California Arts Council. Twelve of these young dancers have been working with Brockus for eight weeks, and others are guests from different local youth arts programs.
Brockus is excellent at coming up with ideas for new and better ways to showcase dance. A true impresario, she and her organization produce and curate the Los Angeles Dance Festival, Spectrum (local professionals), New Perspectives (High School Invitational), Split (mixing local and out of state companies), Caught Between (multi-media) and Why We Dance Series (dialogue between artists and audiences). I asked her what inspired Dance/BACK. “Social action.” She said, “It was the Eboli outbreak and I felt a dire need to help.”
“I did a lot of conferences and workshops for professional development,” she added, “and it wasn’t always dance people, so I was getting exposed to a lot of work that other non-profits do. Artists may not have much money, but we are valuable, and we can change society.”
Brockus frames what she does with Dance/BACK as pro bono work rather than simply raising money for others instead of just for dancers. “We are incredibly valuable, and we can help the world.” She explained that in a commercial sense, dance needs to broaden its audience base, and Dance/BACK is a way to do that. “I want to encourage the cross pollination between worlds”, by which she means teaching the dancers how they can affect the world and to alert the world to know that dance artists are here. Because the dancers are learning more about what some of these charities do and how they function, there is also some cross activism taking place.
I asked her about the quality of the programs and Brockus said that this is definitely a fall concert, with works that are personal and introspective. Charlotte Smith and Jess Harper are doing different works each night and Andrew Pearson has choreographed a group work. Pia Vinson and Dominique McDougal have choreographed solos for each other, and Leah Hamel is presenting a quartet.
Everyone involved in Dance/BACK is volunteering their time and energy. That includes the house and technical crew who are primarily members of Brockus Project. There will be a master class taught by Alan Perez with all proceeds going to relief funds for victims of the Mexico City earthquake. Brockus is working with a colleague at CSU, Los Angeles who is presently in Puerto Rico to locate the proper relief organizations there. One of the dancers in BrockusRed is from Santa Rosa, CA., so Dance/BACK is collecting clothing and other supplies for victims of the catastrophic fires that wiped out thousands of homes in that area.
I asked Brockus if there was anything else she would like to say about this event. “I think that Dance/BACK is a phenomenal opportunity for interaction between the arts community and the general public.” She said, “It is a celebration of a vibrant scene in our community. It’s a good fun party!”
Brockus states that Dance/BACK is not meant to be a serious show or a lecture show, but more like an “all-purpose gala.” She wants people to come, enjoy the dancing, eat some good food; all for a good cause. “We are bringing dance to people and people to dance!”
The program on Friday, November 10 at 8 PM includes works by BrockusRED, Jess Harper, Charlotte Smith, Dominique McDougal, Palm Dance Collective, and Project21 Dance. The program on Saturday, November 11 at 4 PM includes the children working with Deborah Brockus and guests; the program on Sunday, November 12 at 6 PM will include works by Andrew Pearson, BrockusRED, Jess Harper, Charlotte Smith, Dominique McDougal, Pia Vinson, Leah Hamel, and Palm Dance.
Ticket price is $20 suggested donation. For more information, to purchase tickets or, if you are unable to attend, to donate to the charity of your choice, click here.
To view the L.A. Dance Chronicle Performance Calendar, click here.