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Winter 2004
Art in the Time of AIDS
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Two dancers in expressive position
Mani has tuberculosis and HIV, which she got from her husband.

THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE, Gere has found his worlds colliding in serendipitous ways. But to understand his path, it’s easiest to start with his roots. He grew up in North Syracuse, N.Y., the fourth of five children. His parents loved to sing and dance and all five Gere children — his older brother is actor Richard Gere — participated.

“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” says Gere. “My parents were social dancers. They’d take us to local restaurants, and we’d dance to everything. We all had a love of the arts, and everyone pursued art in some way.”

Female performers of an HIV/AIDS-awareness dance piece
Sushila, whose husband was a heroine user, is HIV positive, but has not yet tested her four daughters

As a teen, he wanted to be a musician and majored in piano perfor-mance at Oberlin College. “I took piano very seriously until junior year, when I got tired of sitting in the studio with 100 other pianists, all better than me.” Gere switched majors and graduated with a degree in religion.

But before leaving school, he enrolled in a modern dance class and fell in love with the joy of movement. He studied ballet in Edinburgh during his senior year abroad, and after graduation he moved to New York.

While taking dance composition classes at the Erick Hawkins Studio, Gere gravitated towards more complicated rhythmic dances. His teacher, Lucia Dlugoszewski, encouraged him to study Indian dance and culture. While pondering this idea, Gere received postcards from a friend who was teaching in Madurai, India. She told him of an opening at the neighboring American College, and “the next thing I knew, I was learning Tamil and heading off to India.”

During his two-and-a-half years at The American College Gere carved out a role as an arts presenter, reviving the film society, Tamil choir, a theater group and other programs. He also taught ethical studies, a combination of ethics and religion. “It was definitely a formative experience,” he says. “If not for that experience, I wouldn’t be so interested in India.”

In 1985, Gere moved to San Francisco and began writing about the arts. At a time when most dance criticism focused on European and American dance, Gere again gravitated to other forms, and as co-chair of the International Dance Critics Association he pushed for more coverage of non-Euro-American dance in newspapers and journals.


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