May 6, 2004 by

Homer Avila


Categories: Artists

havila.jpgHomer Avila, a world renowned dancer and choreographer who continued performing even after doctors amputated his cancerous right leg and hip, died on April 27. He was 48.
Born in New Orleans, Avila graduated from the University of Knoxville, moved to New York City and launched a dance career that lasted for more than 25 years. A professional choreographer since 1982, he was best known for his work with Avila/Weeks Dance, a modern-dance company he directed with Edisa Weeks. His pieces involved strong imagery, and his teaching inspired hundreds of dancers studying at Wesleyan College, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Spelman College and Oberlin College.
In 2001, Avila was diagnosed with chondro sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Although he had basic health coverage through COBRA, expensive premiums and living expenses still had to be paid during his recovery. In response, the New York Foundation for the Arts launched the One Step Forward fund to help dancers faced with sudden catastrophic health emergencies. Proceeds from a benefit helped pay for Avila’s care.
Undaunted by his disability, Avila returned to dance class six weeks later, and was performing less than a year after his surgery. His first New York program featured a solo he created for himself called “Not/Without Words.” Although his cancer later metastasized and reached his lungs, Avila danced last Friday night. He checked himself into Sloan Kettering on Saturday and died the following day.
Watch Avila Dance a Duet With Andrea Flores

7 Responses to Homer Avila

  1. Elizabeth Munroz

    Anyone who has this rare cancer, Chondrosarcoma, may have support with others who share the same diagnosis. Homer is an inspiration to all of us, especially a young woman in our group who had the very same surgery that Homer had.

  2. Cherlyn Smith

    I had the great honor (and mostly joy) of performing with Homer at a gallery opening in New York this April 1st (was that his most recent performance?) featuring technology designed to allow children with no limb function to “dance” vicariously through watching live feed video and using computers. I had known and admired him as a dance colleague for many years before, but had never worked with him. It was amazing enough to have known what he endured and overcame, but to perform with him was so wonderful, so normal…two dancers improving…(one “two-legger” as he called me, and him) discovering…what can we do? What works for both of us and the piece… I then returned from touring to hear of his (seemingly, after all of this) sudden death. Oh, dear Homer…My admiration for his continued artistry is huge. My anger at his death after the courage he showed is even more immense…

  3. Sharon Lane

    I have never had the experience of watching Homer dance, but I followed his story in my job as an Adult Rare Cancer and Pediatric Cancer advocate. His bravery amazed me. It must have taken a great deal of courage to dance after the treatments he went through. He was a strong spirit and I am sure he will be missed by everyone.

  4. gonzalo alfaro

    my cousen was a great man. I had the pleasure to meet him before his death. Dispite we lost contact at early age ,he never forgot about me with his raise of fame. He was and still is very talented and i am so proud of him and all he has acomplished. He will never be forgotten and will live in my heart and in everyones forever.

  5. Amy Lehman

    Here is my heart, my open letter to you. I regret not seeing you one last time. April 26th 2004 I looked up your phone number, but noted it was after 10:00pm. In the morning I woke to hear you had left.
    I know you were with me. I know you are still with me….
    I feel you in the most unusual moments. You were in the wings of the owl that sat on my roof last night. You are with me on this journey.
    I Love You,

  6. Terry Clark

    Homer and I were teammates on the University of Tennessee gymnastics team. We eventually both moved to NYC to pursue our dreams. I was humbled by Homer’s strength in the face of adversity. His spirit and talent will live on thru the lives he touched and thru his dance videos which we can all still watch and enjoy.

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