Valley-based CaZo Dance Company will tell the story of a California couple who struggled with brain cancer and fertility issues in its latest production, Tough as Nails.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 29, and Saturday, June 30, at the Mesa Arts Center’s Nesbitt-Elliott Playhouse.
CaZo Dance Company’s artistic director Bridgette Borzillo, of Gilbert, created the interpretive dance piece after reading about the journey of her cousins, Phil and Stacy Bacigalupi.
The Bacigalupis were married for six years when they decided to try for a baby. However, Phil was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2011. It proved to be a six-year battle for the couple, but a year ago, Phil ran a half marathon a week after his baby, Sophie, was born. Phil’s nickname is “Tough as Nails.”
Stacy posted a photo of the three of them at the race’s finish line on Facebook, therefore inspiring Borzillo.
“I knew right then that I had to ask them if I could use their story,” she said.
Tough as Nails’ cast includes lead female dancer, Samantha Brown of Tolleson; lead male dancer Brayan Perez of Mesa and a Scottsdale Community College student; and dancer Misty West of Ahwatukee.
“Tough as Nails is an emotional story told through the power of dance,” Borzillo said. “Attendees can expect to feel raw emotion from the performers, especially from the incredible leads, Samantha Brown and Brayan Perez. We are a unique dance company because we tell these stories through movement, acting and music, and we make sure the story is easy to follow.”
Borzillo created Tough as Nails in hopes that Phil and Stacy’s story would raise awareness about brain tumors and fertility problems.
Unfortunately, the challenges this couple faced are not uncommon. According to the CDC, 10 percent of women in the United States struggle with fertility, and the National Brain Tumor Society estimates that 78,980 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year.
Borzillo is credited with creating Tough as Nails, but the dancers used their own interpretations to unveil the Bacigalupis’ journey. Borzillo is thrilled with her 18-member dance team.
“The dancers really step up where they are needed in rehearsals and come together as a team to get the product right,” she said. “I am extremely blessed to work with such talent.”
Following the performance, CaZo will host a Q&A session with the Bacigalupis.
“We have never done a Q&A as a part of our shows, but in this instance, I felt it was important to ask questions about what was told to get clarity and to have more insight,” Borzillo said.
Along with raising awareness, CaZo is raising funds to benefit those struggling with brain cancer. CaZo is donating $3 from every ticket sold to the National Brain Tumor Society.
Borzillo is excited to see the couple’s story come to life on stage and hopes the performance will bring about positive change.
“It’s been beautiful to watch. I am excited to use dance as a platform to raise awareness and funds for a good cause. I wanted to create something that is about inspiration, hope, kindness, strength, perseverance and love. That’s what the world needs right now. Maybe Tough as Nails can help with some healing, even if it’s a small amount of people.”