Dance Against Cancer Raised More than $243,000 for the American Cancer Society

"I'm dancing for my mother; performing for a cure." Those were the words that began Dance Against Cancer's 5th annual benefit on Monday night, before New York City Ballet principal Maria Kowroski took center stage. While brief, her performance of George Balanchine's Mozartiana (an excerpt) left barely a dry eye in the theater—including a grieving Kowroski herself.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's rehearsal director Matthew Rushing paid tribute to the late Denise Jefferson (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

Kowroski, however, wasn't the only artist onstage whose family had been affected by cancer. Almost all the dancers—more than 50 in total—named a loved one who'd left the world too soon, and to whom they'd dedicate their performance. Dance Against Cancer producers Daniel Ulbricht and Erin Fogarty also have personal ties to the cause. Fogarty's father passed away in 2011 from colon cancer; Ulbricht's mother is living with uterine cancer. And while all the dancers who performed were some of the most incredible in the world, their performances were further heightened by the intention and dedication behind them.

Erin Fogarty and Daniel Ulbricht at Dance Against Cancer (Photo by Kyra Neeley, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

Not all of the evening was solemn in tone—many of the performances, like NYCB principal Robert Fairchild's rendition of Gene Kelly's Ballin' in the Jack, were a celebration of life and its joys. Futhermore, the benefit was a phenomenal success: Over the last five years, Dance Against Cancer has raised more than $550,000 for the American Cancer Society, and this year alone raised more than $243,000. The money aids in funding Hope Lodges across the country, which provide housing for families receiving outpatient treatment away from home.

Take a look at some more photographs from the event below, and visit Dance Against Cancer's 2015 event page to learn more or make a donation.

NYCB principal Robert Fairchild in Gene Kelly's Ballin in the Jack (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

American Ballet Theatre soloist Stella Abrera with former ABT soloist Sascha Radetsky in Antony Tudor's Leaves Are Fading (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

NYCB principals Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

ABT corps member Skylar Brandt with Boston Ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio in Vasily Vainonen's Flames of Paris (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

ABT principal Herman Cornejo with Carrie Walsh in Cornejo's Two Sunsets (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

 

Pennsylvania Ballet principal Lauren Fadeley and soloist James Ihde in Wheeldon's Polyphonia (Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima, courtesy Michelle Tabnick Communications)

 

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Ashton Edwards Is Breaking Down Gender Barriers in Ballet

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For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

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How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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