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Watch: This HIV Choreographer's Interpretive Dance Explores the AIDS Epidemic

Thomas Davis

The Catharsis Project hopes to heal through dance and, damn, the timing is right for it.

Thomas Davis, a 24-year-old HIV-positive advocate who made our list of the HIV Leaders of the Future last year, is about to prove us right. The choreographer and dancer has released a preview video (watch below) unveiling The Catharsis Project, prior to the show's world premiere on December 3.  

Catharsis is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions,” Davis tells Plus. “This is usually done through art forms such as tragedy, drama, dance, and music. I chose this title because I want to heal my community through art.”

Much like The Missing Generation, The Catharsis Project seeks to explore the impact of the epidemic through interpretive dance, as a way of enabling the community to grieve and heal from the trauma of the early AIDS epidemic. There are, of course key differences in the performances, not the least being the make-up of the cast, with Catharsis featuring more dancers of color.  

Davis, who has been HIV-positive for three years, may not have experienced those dark days first hand, but he still feels deeply moved by the events of the 1980s and '90s. He told the audience at a recent HIV is Not a Crime event in Los Angeles, that he selected TV news clips representing critical moments in the epidemic, and shared them with his dancers. Their movements express responses to the clips, which play on a screen behind them while they dance.

“Through dance and multimedia, the world premiere of the Catharsis Project will address some of the issues that affected the communities most impacted by the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” Davis says.

This project is result of a his nearly year-long fellowship through The Human Rights Campaign and Elton John Foundation, which named him one of their  2016 HIV 360° Fellows.

“We learn how to write grants, budgeting, leadership, organization,” Davis told The Pride LA, which chose him as one of their Next Generation of LGBT Activists of 2016.

Davis works for the Los Angeles LGBT Center as a health and education specialist, where he uses his experience to inspire and encourage others. Since he first started sharing his story he's become a popular public speaker who has presented to local, national, and even international audiences.  

The Catharsis Project premieres at 6 p.m. on December 3, at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Saban Auditorium, 4661 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027. It will be a free event­ — with light appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages — in honor of World AIDS Day.  

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