Homer died Sunday, 04/25/04. His memorial service will be held April 29, 2004 from 4pm - 6pm at John Krtil Funeral Home, 1297 First Ave. @ 70th St., NYC, NY 10021 (212-744-3084).
Homer was an Advisory Circle member for Earth Dance Theater (EDT), and was well known to many in the dance community. EDT co-Artistic Director Rulan Tangen was a good friend of Mr. Avila's, going back to their dancer training days in New York City. Mr. Avila had discussed doing a performance for EDT in its first year.
The company wishes to dedicate its upcoming performance in his honor at "Red Rhythms", the first conference in the United States on contemporary indigenous dance. The conference will be held at UC Riverside May 4-7, 2004.
"He was a trailblazer in so many ways," said Ms. Tangen, "so it is a fitting tribute to his memory."
Since having his right leg amputated in April of 2001 due to condro sarcoma cancer, Homer's life was a work in progress. His odyssey, as he reinvented himself as a dancer, performer, and choreographer, brought him to new places of discovery. It also brought him great renown for his courage and creativity in the face of hardship.
Homer was born and raised in New Orleans with family roots in Central America. His early movement training was in gymnastics and his transition to dance began at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. On invitation he moved to New York to pursue a career in dance.
He danced in the companies of Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co., Mark Morris and Ralph Lemon, among others. He has performed at a variety of venues both nationally and internationally including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Inside/Out at Jacob's Pillow, The National Black Arts Festival, MIFA/the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, Emory University and Oberlin College. His teaching credentials include Spelman College, Oberlin College, Brooklyn Friends School, and MOMIX.
One Sunday in late February of 2001, Avila was riding high on a positive review in the Boston Globe. By that Thursday he was free- falling with a diagnosis of chondro sarcoma, a very rare form of cancer. On April 12th, his right leg and hip were amputated. Asked if he ever seriously entertained the idea of leaving dance, his immediate answer is “Never.”
Instead, he says the crisis gave him a chance to “apply the lessons I’ve learned in art: what you do with what you are given.” Avila was too proactive to be either angry or depressed. Alonzo King, with whom Avila took workshops, described Avila as having “a fanatically positive attitude, a largeness of spirit. He showed us that limitations are only in the mind. He was turning on one leg, jumping on one leg, using his elbow, using that body to find new ways to speak in dance.” Musing on his recovery, Avila said, “Being a strong-willed person takes having had a lot of dark times. At this moment of utmost clarity you either dwell on what’s befallen you or you fully embrace what you have left.”
In March of this year Homer performed "Not/Without Words" at the Cunningham Studio in Manhattan. The New York Times said of his performance that "Not/Without Words," a new two-part solo choreographed by Mr. Avila, burrowed into dance in a way that communicated the pleasure of the movement that is its heart.
We are grateful for the spirit of Homer Avila, dancer and teacher extraordinaire.