By Emily G. Peters
If the popularity of shows like “Dancing With the Stars” is any indication, dance is no stranger to the average U.S. household. Hilary Thomas, artistic director of local dance company Lineage Dance, can definitely vouch for rising interest in the medium—but to her, dance offers something more powerful than mere competitive entertainment.
“For me, dance was always an art—so it’s hard for me to comprehend the competitive element,” she explained. “Dance provides an opportunity for people to communicate in a nonverbal, visceral way that no other form of expression can. It brings out a certain happiness that is community-building and healing.”
Thomas launched Lineage Dance twenty years ago after a disenchanting year in what she calls “practical” work. Armed with degrees in dance and psychology, Thomas saw an opportunity to share dance with others—but ultimately grew into something bigger.
“Originally, we were solely a group of dancers, packing ourselves into a van and touring across the country. I was straight out of college and broke, but was realizing how many wonderful nonprofits in Pasadena that I wanted to support,” she said. “Instead of giving money, I thought maybe I could offer dance as a potential fundraising tool for them. Before we knew it, we were offering benefit concerts for nonprofit organizations across the country.”
Beyond benefit shows, Lineage Dance also offers modern dance classes to the community, including a free “Dance for Joy” program developed especially for those with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, cancer, multiple sclerosis and more. Their repertory is similarly bold, using dance to touch on subjects like suicide, gender identity, cancer, and other complex issues. Paired with post-performance panel discussions with subject matter experts, these shows give the audience a bridge to deeper conversations on intense topics.
“As an artist, I’ve found it most satisfying to embrace a topic that is often taboo or difficult for people to talk about,” said Thomas. “Through art, we’re able to offer a more accessible way to address that issue.”
Through these unusual nonprofit partnerships, people who might never have attended a performance have tasted dance’s storytelling power. Lineage Dance is also making waves across Pasadena: teaching across the school district, producing the city’s annual dance festival, participating in ArtNight and supporting its Dance for Joy communities. It’s a lot to tackle—and likely why the company will be moving to a new, larger location sometime in the coming months. But Thomas wouldn’t have it otherwise.
“I’ve said this before, but dance seems to resonate with people in a way that is more passionate and more visceral than other art forms,” she said. “When you are dancing yourself, there is something about engaging every muscle in your body and getting your blood flowing that makes you feel completely alive.”
Lineage Dance Company and Performing Arts Center is located at 89 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena, but will be moving to an interim location at United Methodist Church at 500 E. Colorado Blvd. beginning August 2018. Keep in the know at www.lineagedance.org | (626) 844-7008 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow their updates on Facebook @lineagepac.