Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Just days before East Dallas neighbor Charles Santos was set to begin his job as executive director of TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND, he skipped a morning meeting at the World Trade Center and survived the Sept. 11 attacks. He delayed his start date to help with recovery efforts, but he’s been in Dallas ever since. “It was a strange moment in history when I was in the middle of this war zone,” Santos says. “I was very lucky.” The memory of Sept. 11 lingers, but Santos has found healing through dance. A dancer for 10 years with the Austin-based Sharir Dance Company, Santos now travels around the world recruiting companies from Canada, France, Mexico, China and elsewhere to perform in Dallas. Through grants and donations, TITAS, a dance presenter, offers affordable tickets to Dallas neighbors of all backgrounds. More than 5,000 tickets have been donated to seniors, community centers and local schools to introduce residents to this diverse and global art form.

How would you describe the Dallas dance scene?

We’ve been focused on keeping the artistic caliber very high. We commission new works for our gala, and they tour all over the country and carry the name. It’s important we take our place on the global scene as a progenitor of work. Dallas is an important city, but we need to become an international city. The work makes you famous, so just do the work.

Who is your audience?

The metroplex is a relocation spot for a lot of international people. It’s a blended audience. We don’t market to just the Asian community or just the African American community. It’s important we see all the world’s culture. It’s interesting. It’s beautiful. People get a sense of cultural exchange and globalism. We’re the only outlet for that right now.

What would you say to people who are intimidated by dance?

Dance is a funny thing. The hard-core dance audience, they love us. A lot of people are intimidated by dance because they think they need to know something about it. They have preconceived notions. They don’t want to feel stupid because they’re not dance historians. You don’t need any of that. These are people looking for exciting performances.

TITAS offers several educational programs. Why is arts education important?

Arts education is not necessarily about producing the next generation of artists. It creates the next generation of creative thinkers who will be political and creative leaders. They’ll be able to creatively think through problems. They can see the gray, not just the black and white.

What art projects interest you the most?

The projects that interest me the most are the ones that promote cultural collaboration. In 2011, we produced “A Gathering.” It was the 30th anniversary of the AIDS pandemic, and this was the Dallas art community’s response to that. I wrote a complete show that the center talked me into doing. It involved 12 nonprofits from Dallas and 185 performers. It was a catalyst for cultural collaboration. That’s part of what TITAS sees itself as.

What do you love about the neighborhood?

I love being in East Dallas. The vibe is very cool. There’s a woman on my street who is a TITAS subscriber. I was walking my dog and met another woman who used to be a critic for the Dallas Morning News. We had a great talk about the history of Dallas. It’s been interesting to watch East Dallas develop. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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