Quest magazine

Get involved: Dance like you're fighting cancer

Colette and Luis Ulloa boost Fred Hutch’s cancer research with dance

Dance for a Cure is a fundraising event presented by Mo-dazz for the Arts that benefits Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Dance for a Cure is a fundraising event presented by Mo-dazz for the Arts that benefits Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Photo courtesy of Nigel Cooper Photography

Colette Ulloa puts her whole body into the work she loves. Ulloa fights cancer with the power of dance.

As a member of the adult jazz dance ensemble Pure Joy, she performs each May in Dance for a Cure, a fundraising event presented by Mo-dazz for the Arts that benefits Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her performance is the culmination of countless hours of rehearsing, attracting sponsors and organizing.

“It’s a really hands-on, down-in-the-trenches way to support cancer research,” explained Ulloa, adding that funding cancer research is really about the next generation. “We want to help provide cures for kids down the road.”

A personal connection drew Ulloa and her husband, Luis, to Dance for a Cure. Neither had grown up dancing, but they were attracted to it by close friend Elizabeth Lanning. Lanning established Mo-dazz for the Arts, a pre-professional dance company, in 1989. Lanning organized the first Dance for a Cure auction event in 2004 to honor both her sister, Tricia, who was being treated for sarcoma, and the researchers at Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance who made it their mission to help her.

Dance for a Cure

Photo courtesy of Nigel Cooper Photography

Over the next decade, Dance for a Cure evolved from humble beginnings in a high school auditorium to Benaroya Hall, the home of the Seattle Symphony. Along the way, the event has raised more than $400,000 for cancer research and the patient families at Pete Gross House, a housing facility that caters to patients undergoing long-term treatment at SCCA.

In 2009, the first year the Ulloas danced, they were struggling with an all-too-personal reminder of cancer’s toll: Luis Ulloa’s vibrant 34-year-old sister, Viviana, died from stomach cancer. Colette Ulloa still dances in remembrance of Viviana, holding up a neon pink sign at the end of her performance: “Viviana we miss you.”

Offstage, the Ulloas are also members of Fred Hutch’s Innovators Network (IN). Through IN, they and other young professionals committed to accelerating early-stage cancer research meet scientists like Dr. Jim Olson.

After being “blown away” by Olson’s presentation at an IN event about Tumor Paint — an agent he developed that lights up cancer cells so surgeons can better see and remove them — Colette Ulloa recommended him as the 2014 Dance for a Cure keynote speaker. “It’s inspiring to hear them talk about the science,” she said. “People at Fred Hutch are so passionate. It really makes you feel invested.”

Write to Sabrina Richards at srichar2@fredhutch.org.

View the Fred Hutch events calendar »

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