Hilary Thomas, artistic director for Lineage Dance, is a Pasadena native whose love for dance and charity have combined to create a successful organization. Thomas is not only the creator of Lineage Dance Company, but she is also a teacher at a Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada. She began fueling her passion for dance at a young age (before she could walk) and trained during her childhood at Pasadena Dance Theatre under the guidance of Philip and Charles Fuller and Cynthia Young.
Thomas’ interest in dance continued through college and beyond as she earned degrees in both dance and psychology from Santa Clara University and danced with the Joffrey Ballet. Since the creation of Lineage Dance, Thomas and the company have presented nearly 200 dance performances and raised tens of thousands of dollars for educational, nonprofit, and charitable organizations.
Lineage Dance Company was born out of a benefit performance Thomas organized in 1999. On a dancer’s budget, she was looking for a way to support Young and Healthy, a nonprofit that helps provide medical care for uninsured Pasadena children. In 2010, Lineage Performing Arts Center (LPAC) was opened in the heart of Old Pasadena, fulfilling Thomas’ desire to give back to the community by creating a cultural source of entertainment for locals and charities alike in Pasadena, offering dance and music performances, theatre productions, comedy, poetry readings, birthday parties, fundraising events, film screenings specialized dance classes and more. Each month a different nonprofit organization is featured. In addition, LPAC hosts a National Dance Day, (which happens to be Saturday, July 30, 2011 and is free to all.)
I was able to talk with Hilary about her life in Pasadena and her eternal passion for dance.
How did the company get started?
I started the company in 1999 as a way to give back. Growing up in Pasadena, I was always aware of the numerous, worthy nonprofits that serve as the backbone of our community, but as a dancer I didn’t have any money to contribute. I decided to offer what I could, dance, and started putting together performances.
You usually think of restaurants and chain shops when you’re in Old Pasadena, how did your company, as a performing arts company, end up here?
Good luck I suppose. We had been talking about opening a performing arts center for years and at the moment we were ready to take the leap. We saw the space, fell in love, and the rest is history!
Were you always interested in dance?
Apparently I was dancing before I could walk…so yes.
Wow, that’s quite a while! Where did you study dance?
I grew up dancing with Pasadena Dance Theatre and I was trained there as a ballet dancer. I then went on to earn a degree in dance at Santa Clara. After that I continued my training with the Joffrey Ballet and danced with various companies in Los Angeles.
What’s your career been like?
In 2001, a few years after creating the company, I began teaching science and dance at Flintridge Preparatory School in La Cañada. I have been teaching there ever since. We also opened the Lineage Performing Arts Center (LPAC) just last year.
What are your goals for Lineage Dance and LPAC?
The company was started as a vehicle to support nonprofits through dance. Over the past 12 years we’ve had so much fun touring the nation, performing for different nonprofits and bringing dance to people that wouldn’t normally have the opportunity. Since opening LPAC, we’ve been able to bring those same experiences locally. We have dance classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease, kids with Down Syndrome (a collaboration with Club 21), performances of all kinds (music, theater, comedy, dance) and nonprofit events. I want to continue to expand our reach so that we can bring dance to more specialized populations. We have numerous outreach programs that offer youth performance opportunities as well as subsidized tickets for our LPAC shows and our Pasadena Dance Festival. I’d love to be able to expand that further so we can truly make the arts accessible to all.
Lastly, what would you say is your favorite thing to do on a day off in Pasadena?
I sure would love a day off! Spending so much time in Old Pasadena these days, I do get to test out all the new restaurants, sneak away for a $25 massage at Heart & Sole, or catch a free concert in the park.
Lineage Performing Arts Center is located at 89 S. Fair Oaks Ave. in Old Pasadena.