TheREDproject aims to inform and open dialog about HIV/AIDS through dance
“The city will not, right now, allow people to actually speak about being HIV positive,” said Johnnie Cruise Mercer, local choreographer and artistic director for TheREDproject. “This concert creates a small space that will allow people to open up and talk about it.”
Mercer’s company was started by him and other VCU alumni, and they are the main force behind “Undoing the Silence: An Evening of Dance Works Inspired by HIV Positive Stories/Experiences”, a benefit concert exploring the personal stories, fears, and stigmas associated with the HIV/AIDS virus in the Richmond community.
Through body movements, Mercer and his dancers will present three works, each based on interviews and stories from people living with HIV in the Richmond community.
The first of these works, Red Patient, is about waiting and more specifically, waiting for the inevitable, and the illogical shifts in emotion people go through while waiting. The second, Art, is about the creative process and how people “take the time to build something and write something and make something, and then quickly crumble it apart and start all over again,” said Mercer. The third and final work presented, The Love Review, is a dark comedy about love and relationships inspired heavily by musical theater, drag, and vaudeville.
There will be 10 performers, including Mercer, all from different cultural and social backgrounds. To help create a deeper understanding of the source material, Mercer had speakers come in and speak to the dancers once a week about their personal experiences as HIV-positive members of the Richmond community.
“In order for people to understand the HIV thing, you can’t categorize it,” Mercer said when discussing the ways that the dancers will incorporate the HIV/AIDS virus narratives. “Pain is pain, and that’s just what it is. If you’re alone, you’re alone. You might not understand the kind of loneliness that this person is feeling, but you still understand loneliness, and if you understand loneliness then you understand that person, because you’re all human.”
The event will not be about creating awareness by telling people what they should and should not do, but rather, it will create awareness by fostering a sympathetic viewpoint and showing that everyone is human.
In addition to the concert, there will be a panel and open discussion held at the Gay Community Center of Richmond on January 17th at 1 PM. The event is free to the public, and will include panelists from the Fan Free Clinic, the Minority Health Consortium, The Renewal Project’s Rodney Lofton, and community activist Kevin Jones, among many others.
In addition to offering an open circle for people to come and speak about how the HIV/AIDS virus has affected their lives, there will be a free dinner provided by Mama J’s Kitchen and Alchemy Coffee Shop.
January 16th-17th 8pm and January 18th
Tickets: General Admission: $20.00, Student: $15.00
*20% of box office goes to Minority Health Consortium and Fan Free Clinic to continue HIV testing throughout the Richmond area.
Dogtown Dance Theater
109 W. 15th Street, 23224
Purchase Tickets at: http://
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