When Dancefx, an Athens-based contemporary dance company, decided to expand to Charleston in 2008, founding director Danielle Hosker just needed one thing to help her get there: former company member Jenny Broe. If you've seen Broe dance, this isn't surprising. With a strong contemporary, lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop background (Dancefx's signatures), the statuesque dancer is all emotion and long, beautiful lines. But back in 2008, Broe had other priorities. She was living in Atlanta with her parents, working four dance jobs and hanging tight; her mother, Joy, had terminal stage four cancer, and the doctors had told her she had five to 10 years to live.
Eventually, Broe decided she would join Hosker, but only if her parents could come, too. She and her mother began hatching plans for their remaining time together. Her mother, an artist, wanted to start up her own studio called Artfx, where she would teach creative art. Broe went ahead to set up house for her parents and to get started with her new job; Joy was going to finish up her last treatment. Instead, Joy grew sicker, and doctors discovered a brain tumor. Her new diagnosis gave her a year at best.
"When we got that news, I lost my mind," Broe remembers. "I wanted to run home and never look back."
Unshakeably defiant in the wake of this news, Joy insisted on following through with the plans to move, and Broe packed up her parents in December 2008. Broe's first-year salary at Dancefx (read: not a lot of money) was her family's sole income and was used to pay the hospital bills. Joy passed away in March 2009.
After her mother's death, a grief-stricken Broe fled the country and spent 18 days alone in Italy and France. She says peace was hard to find, but she did find the impetus she needed to turn her grief into action, and she began her next project: the Crazy Sexy Cancer Benefit. When she returned, Broe and her father set out to organize the event to support the American Cancer Society.
Unfortunately, the first fundraiser was poorly attended; less than 50 people showed up. Organizers told Joy's story and showcased her artwork in the back of the theater. They raised $400 and were thrilled. This year, Broe's aiming for a figure closer to $3,000.
For the second annual Crazy Sexy Cancer Benefit, Broe intends to "go big, or go home." The line-up features the Charleston Dance Project and Dancefx Strip Aerobics Performance Ensemble (both of which Broe is highly involved in) and music from the Tim Hodson Band, E Duro Jazz group, Adrienne Brammer, Matthew Price (Broe's fiancé), and Solar Sight. In addition, there will be comedy, burlesque, and actress Pamela Nichols Galle of PURE Theater will perform a monologue from Molly Sweeney. A silent auction begins at 7 p.m. with selections from local vendors.
"People are pretty willing to help if you ask," says Broe, who will take over as executive director in August. "The response was insane."
Back at the 1,700-square-foot Dancefx studio, Joy's artwork covers the walls. Broe has steadfastly collected the originals from studios all over the country. Now she has a new dream: to create a showcase filled with her mother's work, aptly called "Joy."
"[My mother] taught me that you can make a living at what you love to do and not settle," Broe says. "I'm doing exactly what I love, and my career is my passion ... That's how I turn my grief into action. I'm living the life I want right now. I mean, without my mom."