In the 1980s America faced a plague.
And with it came fatigue, crippling pains in the stomach, fevers, heartaches and sores. Those who had it, stared to wither and crumble to pieces. One of those victims was David Hochoy’s best friend Philip Salvatori.
The two met while they were dancing at the Martha Graham Company in New York. Hochoy recalls Salvatori — a strong, powerful dancer — getting migraines brought on by an infection, something his body was unable to fight because of his recent diagnosis of AIDS: something that Hochoy has been fighting back against since 1994. Hochoy is the mastermind behind Spotlight, a yearly variety show of Indianapolis performing artists that raises funds for the Indiana AIDS Fund. Since it’s dawn, Spotlight has raised nearly $4 million.
Hochoy went onto explain how the disease not only impacted him, but stripped away generations of performing artists.
“There was no vaccine we could take, there was no cure for it,” says Hochoy. “And to watch your friends disintegrate in front of you.”
Hochoy recalled dancing with these young men who were strong, healthy, fit, and in perfect control of their bodies.
“It was very shocking,” says Hochoy. “When you are young you think you are invincible. When you are young and healthy — like all dancers are — you never even dream of having your life taken away from you. So when someone who is near and dear to you, and so close to you, has fallen because of the AIDS disease, it’s devastating. Then when you see all of your friends around you going, it’s crazy and frightening — very frightening.”
There is a photograph that hangs to this day on Hochoy’s wall of himself and nine other dancers from the Martha Graham Company on stage for the Rite of Spring. Only three of those men are left standing today. The others were diagnosed with AIDS and died some years later.
“It made me determined,” says Hochoy. “With diseases like this there is no way to fight back. You can’t fight back. The only way you can fight back is to do something like this, which is a fundraiser to help support people who are still living and who still want help.”
When Hochoy moved to Indianapolis in 1991 (after living and dancing in New York for 16 years) he began to wonder if the performing arts groups around Indy ever came together for mixed medium shows. At the time none did in a constant way or to this scale.
He and Libby Appel, the former artistic director at the IRT, asked directors around town come together for a one night show where each group held the stage for only a few minutes. The result was Spotlight, which showcases everything from dance and music to spoken word and burlesque. This year their goal is to raise $160,000. In years past they have raised as much as $400,000.
With each show Hochoy puts a special focus on finding new organizations and companies.
“I love to discover new groups and present new groups,” says Hochoy. “It keeps on unfolding the talent that exists in the Indianapolis performing arts community.”
The sheer amount of performers has forced Hochoy to split the annual performers into two groups to make room for the new companies. This year those will be Angel Burlesque (who is doing a humorous number), two ballroom groups (Heartland Dance USA and Tango Indy), Synergy Dance Company and Create Freedom Arts Project. This will also be the first year that there will be more than one drag queen. Another addition will be spoken word by Tasha Jones. All of the performers hail from Indianapolis.
Unlike years past, this round has no overarching thematic tie. Hochoy does make a point however to give as much feedback to new groups as possible. Especially ones who have not performed on a Clowes-size stage.
The idea for what some call one of the best reoccurring variety shows in Indy came to Hochoy when he still lived in New York. He was sitting with Jerome Robbins, the famous director and choreographer for West Side Story, during rehearsal for a program called Dancing for Life — a fundraising show with all of the major dance companies in the country (Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Martha Graham to name a few).
“The evening was so inspiring, to see all these dance companies on stage,” says Hochoy. “So when I became an artistic director myself here in Indianapolis, that’s when I thought I want to see if we can produce something like that here in Indianapolis, with Indianapolis performing arts people and for Indianapolis audiences.”
And the Indianapolis art scene has welcomed the evening with open arms.
“There is a great deal of love that comes from the stage to audience, and comes back to the stage from the audience,” says Hochoy. “Because everybody in the hall knows what they are there for …Everybody in the arts community knows somebody who is close to them who has died of AIDS — everybody.”
April 18, 8 p.m.
Clowes Memorial Hall
Tickets are free but donations are STRONGLY encouraged