Artists/survivors transform cancer battle into art, dance

Art exhibit, dance, multimedia collage carry message of hope


Staff Writer

Breast cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care what hue you are, how old you are, or whether you are a lawyer or a legal assistant, a mother or grandmother, a dancer or a visual artist.

But when cancer strikes a dancer or an artist, they can transform the experience into art for all to embrace, and through that process create an awareness of the many facets of the life-threatening illness.

To further that awareness, the Diney Goldsmith Breast Cancer Research and Education Foundation will host two artistic events during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

“Within” by Vaune Peck “Within” by Vaune Peck The first event, which begins on Oct. 6 with an opening reception, is the “Art of Survival” exhibit, which includes artwork by women touched by breast cancer. The opening reception will be held at HerSpace: Breast Imaging Associates in West Long Branch.

The second event, on Oct. 20, will be an evening of dance featuring New York-based dancer Kim Moack’s critically acclaimed “Six Months to Live” and DanceLife Productions’ “The Self Transcended.” The multimedia theater/dance collage will be held at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.

“Mussel Boat” by Deborah Redden “Mussel Boat” by Deborah Redden Both dance performances are the works of professional dancers and choreographers articulating their experiences with breast cancer.

“Six Months To Live” is Colombian-born dancer Karim Noack’s response to the diagnosis of terminal breast cancer in 1995, when she was given just six months to live. A decade later, she continues to perform in the multimedia dance production that features a succession of dramatic tango, flamenco, Afro-Cuban and salsa dances that illustrate episodes in her decade-long struggle against breast cancer.

“Spring Burst” by Cassandra Jennings Hall “Spring Burst” by Cassandra Jennings Hall “One of the most important goals of these performances is to bring a message of hope to women living with breast cancer,” Noack has said.

“The Self Transcended” represents the collaborative work of ballerina Elena Comendador, dance photographer Marbeth, and friend and choreographer Joy Serio Dunbar. The three women came together following Comendador’s diagnosis of breast cancer in 1998.

Comendador and Dunbar co-founded DanceLife Productions, a nonprofit organization that promotes breast cancer awareness and expresses the journey through breast cancer with performances, photographic exhibits, workshops and lectures.

“Leaf Bodice”  by Dorothy Gordon Englander “Leaf Bodice” by Dorothy Gordon Englander “Art and beauty are the essence of life and we all celebrate. The ‘Art of Survival’ show vividly captures this essence through the many artists and their visual forms of expression from painted canvas to dramatic dance,” said HerSpace founder and Medical Director Dr. Beth M. Deutch, a founder and trustee of the Diney Goldsmith Breast Cancer Research and Education Foundation.

“We are dedicating this year’s ‘Art of Survival’ to my colleague and personal friend, Jeanne Petrek,” she said. “Jeanne spent her professional life as a breast surgeon and clinical researcher focused on helping women not only survive the breast cancer diagnosis, but thrive with it. Her patients slept well at night knowing that she was going to help them move on — to feel well, to get back to work, to have a normal sex life, to make babies –– after breast cancer,” Deutch said, adding, “She understood, and shared with her patients, the art of survival.”

PAULNEWLANDPAULNEWLAND Petrek was tragically killed on April 12 when she was run over by an ambulance on her way to work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The “Art of Survival” preview reception will begin at 7 p.m. with a cocktail reception and viewing of the art. Selections will include works from 12 metropolitan area women, with work representing many mediums, including paintings, limited-edition prints, photography, collage, watercolors, pastels, quilt and sculpture.

Local artists Nancy Hersh and Charlotte Scherer curated the art selected for the exhibit. “In selecting the art, we wanted to show the multi-faceted impact this disease has on women. The addition of the live performance venue this year at the new Two River Theater is an exciting evolution for the ‘Art of Survival’ and will invite our community as well as the dancers to celebrate art and life while acknowledging the wide-reaching impact cancer has had on us all,” Hersh said.

Little Silver resident Rhea Goldsmith, a breast cancer survivor and former patient of Petrek, will chair the 2005 Art of Survival events.

Information about “Art of Survival” is available at www. herspacebreast. com/ artofsurvival.

Doreen Laperdon Addison of DanceLife Productions