Dancers We Lost: Honoring Performers Lost to HIV/AIDS

April – August 2016

Curated by Glenne McElhinney


Featuring beautiful photographs and other documentation, “Dancers We Lost” was a special traveling exhibition that was part of a comprehensive dance history project honoring performers who died due to complications of HIV/AIDS. The project documented and brought to light the lives and contributions of performers, most of whom tragically died young. The exhibition showed the dancers in their prime performing in myriad venues, including Broadway and Las Vegas shows, dance concerts, TV variety shows, films, ballet, music videos, and commercials.

Photo by Marty Sohl.

Photo by Marty Sohl.

The AIDS pandemic struck the performing arts particularly hard. “Absence is the word that came to mind when I began to research these performers,” said curator Glenne McElhinney. “In one fell swoop, we lost dancers everywhere, shunned by a public health system unresponsive to their plight and a nation whose leaders were indifferent to those infected with HIV.”

The “Dancers We Lost” project also included a database providing accurate information about the performing artists’ lives and careers, ensuring that these dancers would not be forgotten, anonymous virtuosos. The exhibition premiered in June 2015 in West Hollywood, California, as part of the summer programming around various venues within the city.


Photo by Ken Howard.

Photo by Ken Howard.

About the Curator

Glenne McElhinney is the founder of Impact Stories, which presented Dancers We Lost. Impact Stories is a California-based project that uses oral histories, documentary films and exhibitions to bring alive the histories of LGBTAQ people and their allies for all types of audiences. A Bay Area native, McElhinney marched in her first San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1976. In 1982, she was a founding member of InterPride, the international association of pride organizations. Since 2008, she has worked as an oral historian, filmmaker and curator focusing on LGBTQ history.

About the Sponsors

Dancers We Lost is sponsored by the California LGBT Arts Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports the arts in the Golden State.

All photographs, scrapbooks, personal papers, biography files and items collected by the history project will go to the Museum of Performance + Design in San Francisco, the largest dance and performing archive on the West Coast.