Dance event to urge testing

In this Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005 file photo, a woman lies in a tanning booth in Anchorage, Alaska.  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has until Saturday to act on legislation that would ban tanning in Illinois for anyone under age 18. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
In this Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005 file photo, a woman lies in a tanning booth in Anchorage, Alaska. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has until Saturday to act on legislation that would ban tanning in Illinois for anyone under age 18. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)

Dr. Gerald Miletello admits he only recently heard of Eva Cassidy, and he isn’t known for his dance moves. But that isn’t stopping him from taking the Manship Theatre stage with River North Dance Chicago next month.

But he’ll leave the footwork to the experts.

Instead, Miletello will use the occasion to advise the audience about getting themselves screened for skin cancer, something he is all too familiar with as an oncologist for the Baton Rouge General Pennington Cancer Center. As unusual as it sounds, the topic will fit right in with the dance performance theme, and is half of the Baton Rouge General’s effort to raise awareness of the issue.

A free cancer screening will be held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Baton Rouge General’s Mid-City campus, and the Feb. 12 dance performance, “Eva,” is in memory of Cassidy, whose fame as a vocalist spread mostly after her death in 1996 at age 33 to melanoma.

This fusion of arts and cancer awareness came after Manship Theatre Executive Director Renee Chatelain discovered River North Dance Chicago and “Eva” last year while attending a showcase of dance companies. She booked River North to perform “Eva” and two other numbers from its repertoire.

Later, Chatelain was going to a meeting about arts in medicine and ended up at the wrong Baton Rouge General campus. It proved fortuitous. An oncology nurse told her that Miletello is the only doctor in a five-state area using a particular treatment protocol for people with the most advanced (stage 4) melanomas.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect an issue like that for awareness when we are presenting arts,” Chatelain said.

Cassidy was an American singer and guitarist known for her interpretations of classics from a variety of musical genres.

Though she recorded two albums and was honored by the Washington Area Music Association, she was little known when she died.

But that would change after BBC Radio 2 played her versions of “Fields of Gold” and “Over the Rainbow,” and recognition spread worldwide.

Registration is required for the skin screening. Visit BRGeneral.org or call (225) 763-4280.

The first 25 people to register for Baton Rouge General’s skin cancer screening will receive two free tickets to the River North Dance Chicago performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, at the Manship Theatre (ManshipTheatre.org).