Why is MANNA’s Shut Up and Dance ending after a 30-year engagement at the Forrest Theater?
It seems weird to speak the words out loud, but, after 30 years of moving and grooving for the sake of MANNA – the Metropolitan Area Nutrition Alliance which has serviced Philadelphia and beyond in the wake of the AIDS pandemic – the Philadelphia Ballet-based Shut Up and Dance event will cease to operate after this weekend’s last ever charitable event, April 30 at the Forrest Theater.
“The legacy of the generosity and commitment of the Dancers of Philadelphia Ballet and the love they have shown to MANNA for the last 30 years means so much to us,” reads its statement. “We look forward to working together to figure out what comes next in this important partnership. We hope you will join us for our 30th Anniversary and final performance. It is one to not be missed. Let us celebrate this incredible journey together.”
Famously fire-started and first put together by the Fringe Festival’s Nick Stuccio, the 30th-anniversary finale sees Shut Up and Dance going out in a big way.
With John Jarboe of the Bearded Ladies Cabaret as its host, this presentation from the Dancers of Philadelphia Ballet will also welcome performances from the Almanac Dance Circus Theater, BalletX, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Gunnar Montana, Jacob Taylor and UArts. Shut Up & Dance is led by Producing Director and Philadelphia Ballet Demi Soloist Jackie Callahan, Assistant Director and Philadelphia Ballet Soloist Peter Weil, and Assistant Director and Philadelphia Ballet Demi Soloist Jack Sprance. Before the dance commences, there is a Pre-Party for Shut Up at Jefferson Alumni Hall across the street from the Forrest.
Most would ask why is Shut Up and Dance closing out its tab. Its initial HIV/AIDS-based mission, to deliver nutritious meals to those who can’t tend to themselves – 19,787,315 hot meals to over 39,964 clients with over 85 different chronic illnesses – is still crucial and money is still needed. Shut Up & Dance has provided MANNA with $2 million over the years while offering Philly’s dancers options in which to create, different from their norm.
So why stop Shutting Up? Casual conversations around the topic are that the Forrest Theatre, like every other theater in town, is pricey to rent for rehearsals and showtime, despite the event making money and drawing audiences.
Two things, then, come to mind, beyond shame on the venues for charging so much or charging at all beyond immediate expenses. Anyone in this city who truly wishes to be a benefactor and throw that money they supposedly have, will either buy out the space next year, or move it somewhere equally sizeable and affordable. Neither the Philadelphia Ballet, its friends and hosts, MANNA or those who need its services wish Shut Up and Dance to stop. Let’s do better, Philly.