The local dance company Human Nature Contemporary Ballet is on a mission to break down the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. The company’s latest production, “The GRID,” attacks the issue directly.
In the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was referred to as “gay-related immune deficiency,” or GRID. As it became more apparent that the disease was an equal-opportunity illness, the name was changed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
“It wasn't until it was transmitted to a woman by a man that the acronym [GRID] really stopped being used,” said Rafael Chavez, the group’s choreographer.
“The GRID” is Human Nature's third major presentation and the second at the Chamizal National Memorial. Their current cast includes University of Texas at El Paso alumni and students José Barraza, Kimberly Morris, Rebeca Chavez and Sarah Fuentes. The story revolves around a group of friends and lovers who transmit the disease to their partners. These transmissions include female-to-male and female-to-female.
The show also aims to raise awareness about the amount of HIV/AIDS cases in the borderland. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,493 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in Texas in 2016, and El Paso County landed at number 6 in the state with 93 cases.
Human nature has been promoting HIV testing with the assistance of La Fe Care Center. The center will be providing free HIV testing at all performances of “The GRID”.
This is not the first issue affecting the LGBTQ community to be brought to the stage by Human Nature. In April, the company dedicated the work “#Pulse” as a memorial to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Chavez and principal dancer José Barraza began Human Nature as a couple and recent graduates of UTEP's dance program. While they are no longer together as romantic partners, they continue collaborate professionally, sharing a common vision of the kind of stories they want to tell.
A major mission of Human Nature is to serve the community.
“This time what we want to do is really focus on the health of our community by first tackling HIV and AIDS,” Chavez said. “This isn't the last time that we're going to focus and try to get the word out.”