For so many women, being diagnosed with breast cancer is the most terrifying thing they’ll ever experience. Treatment can be just as difficult. It is one of the most common forms of cancer around today. Yet every year, during National Breast Cancer Month (October), hundreds of people walk in solidarity with breast cancer patients and survivors – and in an effort to raise money for research toward a cure. A group of dancers from Broadway Dance Center (BDC) has joined these walkers every year since 2006 – this year, on October 14.
A troupe of dancers from BDC will also perform for and cheer on walkers, helping to lighten the mood of what can be a very heavy and emotional experience for many involved with the walk. All will wear “Team BDC” t-shirts. Dancers will start the day at 7:45am, and walkers at 9am. On October 10 and 11, all may meet at the studio to make signs for the walk. Go here to learn more about the event and get registered for the walk. One can also donate at that link – a way to contribute to the cause if walking on that day isn’t possible.
One survivor’s story demonstrates what BDC is walking for, and how supportive the BDC community is of patients and survivors. Olivia Hutcherson is a long-time member of the BDC community. She grew up dancing in Atlanta, and moved with her family to NYC at 16 years of age. At 18, she made the leap to Los Angeles.
There, she was a professional/competition Latin and ballroom dancer, danced for the San Francisco 49ers, and was a top 30 contestant on Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance. After five years on the west coast, she decided to come back to NYC. She jumped into the BDC community, hoping to teach. Although it wasn’t as easy to gain a faculty position as she had expected, she was soon assisting (first Teen Jazz and Ballroom, for Melissa Torres) and enjoying taking class frequently through BDC’s Workstudy program.
Then, at 23 years of age, the bombshell dropped – she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I immediately had this gigantic list of things to do, these big life-changing things,” Hutcherson shares. “I never really had a chance to process it all.” To add insult to injury, she had just been cast in a Madonna production (for which she auditioned at BDC), a week after her birthday, when she got the news.
As a dancer, it was incredibly difficult to lose so much of her physical appearance as a result of treatment – her hair, both her breasts and, at one point, her svelte shape (a medication resulted in significant weight gain). “For 26 years, I identified with how I looked and how I danced,” she reveals. “I lost all of that. It took three years and a lot of time with God. It’s a process, and it’s a project.”
Through it all, however, BDC stuck by her. “So many times, I thought I’d lose my job, with me having to take time away when there are a hundred other people in line to take it, but BDC was so patient and supportive,” Hutcherson explains. The BDC community marched specifically for her in the 2015 NYC Walk for Breast Cancer.
And Hutcherson was recently offered a faculty position, an enormous honor that she’s worked very hard for. “I believe in God, but whatever you believe, it’s amazing how things turn out,” she says. “I’m just so thankful to be in my own skin.”
She also feels thankful to be in the BDC community, learning and growing with other artists every day. “I was teaching these kids, and they were just dancing circles around me,” Hutcherson says. “I’m grateful to be where I am, and pass on to them what I have to give.”
There’s a generosity of spirit there, one that’s also evident in BDC’s involvement with the Walk for Breast Cancer, and in the many community enrichment activities BDC offers. That iconic line from the Beatles feels like it applies here: “I get by with a little help from my friends. / I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends!”
Head to www.broadwaydancecenter.com/special-event/dance-for-cure to register to walk or to donate. Email ACook@bwydance.com with any questions on the event.
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.