Humans Collective: Dance Philanthropy at Its Finest

A lot of dancers find fulfillment in benefit performances. I specifically remember dancing for a cure for breast cancer on my sixteenth birthday. It was great to perform without any major stakes attached, and I loved using dance to fund a good cause.

As dancers, a three-minute performance may be a low-key commitment, but it takes a lot of work to put together these events. The directors of these organizations have so many things to consider, from finding a venue to financing the production to the lighting design and more.

Interested in starting your own nonprofit? To get the scoop, I spoke with choreographer Lauren Cox about her nonprofit performance group, Humans Collective. Recently, Humans Collective presented Aloneology, which raised $1,200 to fund the education of Natasha, a young girl Cox met through the Rock Orphanage in Hyderabad, India. The show featured choreography by Sheila Barker, Joanna Numata, and Carlos Neto. Find out more about Cox’s journey creating Humans Collective and her future plans for the organization.

Teaching dance and bringing joy to girls at the Rock Orphanage (courtesy Lauren Cox)

Dance Spirit: Where did the inspiration for Humans Collective come from?

Lauren Cox: Well, I went to India at the beginning of last year because I wanted to do something with a purpose. It really changed the way I thought about my own privilege, and my ability to make decisions because of that privilege. The inspiration for Humans Collective came from working with kids—kids who don’t take you for granted as a teacher and who need you as much as you need them. I’ve been a dancer my whole life, so doing something dance-related was just a given. That’s what I know, what I love and where my network is.

DS: How can someone interested in starting their own nonprofit get started?

LC: Starting a nonprofit isn’t as daunting as it may seem. I think you just need a very clear vision, and it has to be pure of heart. Think about what it is you are truly passionate about—a community that's relevant to your life. I filed for a DBA (an abbreviation for the legal term "doing business as"), so I’m Lauren Cox doing business as Humans Collective. I can get a tax ID number and I can approach businesses for grants and fiscal sponsorships. It took a lot of independent research, but I think everything has its own process. There’s no one way to do anything—there are infinite ways. So just go for it. Get out of your own mind and trust the process.

DS: Were there any challenges or obstacles that came up when organizing Aloneology?

LC: So many. As a leader, there’s a lot of pressure that sneaks up on you due to the nature of the business and the work. For example, one of the cast members couldn’t do the show because of personal issues, so we had to consider her well-being and move forward at the same time. (It was a cast of eight, so everybody was a huge part of the show.) I did find it challenging to be both a friend and a director and to decide which one should take precedent. But once you create a base, it flows much smoother the second and third time around. You can figure out what’s working and what’s not. It’s harder to create something out of thin air.

In rehearsal with Carlos Neto (via humanscollective.com)

DS: Do you have any advice for artists who’d like to organize a similar benefit performance?

LC: I think the best advice I can offer is to be consistent. Do something that you’re passionate about, because real recognizes real. And having good people around who balance you out and refocus you is so important.

DS: How much money were you able to raise and send to India?

LC: Each show so far has sponsored a different girl from the Rock Orphanage in India. The first girl was Natasha, who’s been studying pastry art. We raised $1,200, which will allow her to graduate in December. The second girl is Bhavani. She wants to go to nursing school, which costs up to $3,000 a year. There’s a donate tab on the website, which will link directly to our PayPal account.

The cast of Aloneology (photo by Maria Panina, courtesy Lauren Cox)

DS: Following two successful shows, what are your goals for the future of Humans Collective?

LC: I really want to do a traveling dance show, where we go to different countries and talk about the history of dance and how it’s evolved along with the culture. I’d even like to learn those dances and then bring them back to NYC. We’re set to do a workshop at Double Up Dance Center in Connecticut and I’m talking to Broadway Dance Center about doing Aloneology in one of their studios. I’d like to go back to India and have more workshops there, as well.

For more information, visit humanscollective.com.

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