Dance for Life Chicago 2017 takes place Aug. 19

Mon. July 10, 2017 4:44 PM

noelle kayser

photo credit // todd rosenberg photography

Eight companies unite for Dance for Life 2017

Chicago, IL - The 26th annual Dance for Life Chicago will exemplify Chicago's versatile and virtuoso dance community with the eight companies that are performing August 19 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Chicago Dancers United (CDU), which mobilizes Chicago's dance community by raising funds through dance, presents this annual benefit performance, which is preceded by a gala reception at the Hilton Chicago.

The Partner Dance Companies that perform each year are Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet. Joining these annual participants this year are a collaboration between Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and Trinity Irish Dance Company; Jessica Miller Tomlinson Choreography; and Visceral Dance Chicago. The concert concludes with a celebratory grand finale work choreographed by Randy Duncan to music by Andy Mitran. Emcees for the evening are Carisa Barreca and Tim Mason of The Second City.

Dance for Life Chicago is the annual benefit dance concert presenting and showcasing the city's unique diversity of talent, dance traditions and styles by bringing together talented, world-renowned professional dancers from Chicago for one night on the same stage. The dance community unites artistically to support those affected by critical health and other life issues by generously donating their time, energy and artistry to the cause. During the past 25 years, Dance for Life Chicago has presented 33 Chicago-based, professional dance companies and numerous choreographers.

Proceeds from Dance for Life Chicago support The Dancers' Fund, which provides assistance to members of the dance community coping with critical health and life issues, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

The program

Giordano Dance Chicago performs Randy Duncan's Can't Take This Away, which premiered in 1997. Featuring 15 dancers and set to music performed live by The Bournés Family, the piece, according to Lynn Shapiro of SeeChicagoDance, features "buoyant leaps and spirals [that] well could usher any soul to heaven, and in fact, gave a great preview of the hereafter for the living fortunate enough to experience their performance."

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs an excerpt from Nacho Duato's Jardi Tancat choreographed for three couples and set to Catalan music recorded by vocalist Maria del Mar Bonet. Catalonian for "Closed Garden," the piece reveals this appeal in the movements of sowing, planting and threshing of the barren Catalonian land. Also on the program is Crystal Pite's solo A Picture of You Falling featuring dancer Jason Hortin, who leaves at the end of August after 10 years with Hubbard Street and 10 years performing at Dance for Life Chicago.

The Joffrey Ballet performs Joy choreographed by Alexander Ekman to music by Django Django. Commissioned by The Joffrey in association with Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley, the piece received its world premiere in April 2017 during The Joffrey's spring program at the Auditorium Theatre. "To observe dancers feeling joy on stage is contagious," Ekman said. "Joy is my 47th piece, created in only two weeks in Chicago. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to just arrive in the studio without preparing too much. I wanted to see what the dancers would bring to the piece. The turnout is something completely different than I expected—that is, the pure joy of creating in the moment. To be open to dancers' talents and unique expressions can bring personality and depth to the work. Through playing we have come up with this quirky universe."

Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater and Trinity Irish Dance Company together perform In the Meantime, choreographed by Lane Alexander, Maggie Eileen Doyle and Claudia Pizarro. According to the collaborators, rhythm and percussive dance are sophisticated, elastic and ancient languages with many distinct dialects. Even as these dialects have multiplied and evolved over millennia, the root is so strong that we are still able to understand each other and freely admire the sound and feel of the "other." In the Meantime is a celebration of our distinct cultures and a recognition of our common impulses and the universal desire to make rhythm.

Jessica Miller Tomlinson Choreography performs In Tongues, an abstract work loosely based on the quirky, over-the-top stage persona of Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne, set to the band's music.

Visceral Dance Chicago performs Ruff Celts, choreographed by Marguerite Donlon, who, inspired by the dancers' personalities, uses a mixed score of contemporary Irish and German composers in this dynamic, dark-humored work. A fusion of contemporary and deconstructed technical vocabularies defines this sharp-witted, quirky, full-company work that has become a crowd favorite.


Dance for Life Chicago 2017 is sponsored, in part, by the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Hilton Chicago, Barbara Levy Kipper, MB Financial, NIB Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, HMS Media, Paterno Group, Bell Litho Inc., Athletico Physical Therapy, The Geraghty, the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and Jewell Event Catering. Special thanks to Dance for Life Chicago 2017's Producers and Dance Captains.

Dance for Life Chicago, which takes place Saturday, August 19, begins at 5 p.m. with a gala reception and buffet dinner at the Hilton Chicago Grand Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan Ave., and continues with the performance at 7:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy. Tickets are $275—600 for both the gala reception and performance and $15—75 for the performance only and are available by phone at 312.341.2300, online at or in person at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office. Group tickets ( 10 or more ) are available by calling 312.341.2300.

Chicago Dancers United

Dance for Life Chicago uses the art of dance to make a difference in people's lives. In response to the changing needs of Chicago's dance community, evolutions in the nature of HIV/AIDS, the growth of the annual event and its other programs, Dance for Life Chicago has grown into a nonprofit organization, Chicago Dancers United (CDU). CDU engages Chicago's dance community to support organizations and dance community professionals dealing with critical health and other life issues causing significant financial, emergency or catastrophic hardships, including, but not limited to, HIV/AIDS, through dance.

Proceeds from Dance for Life Chicago 2017 benefit the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and CDU's The Dancers' Fund, which began in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the dance community. The fund now offers assistance in, but not limited to, housing, utilities, insurance, medication and travel. As a unified dance community in Chicago, CDU uses dance to support a stronger and healthier community by focusing on its health and well-being through The Dancers' Fund and Dance for Life Chicago.

The companies

Giordano Dance Chicago, America's original jazz dance company, has captivated generations of audiences around the world with dynamic performances and the diversity and wide appeal of its powerful repertoire. Celebrating its 54th season, and under the leadership of Artistic Director Nan Giordano and Executive Director Michael McStraw, Giordano creates innovative choreography, often redefining and expanding the very meaning of jazz dance, and brings this invaluable American art form to enthusiastic audiences around Chicago, the United States and the world.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's core purpose is to bring artists, art and audiences together to enrich, engage, educate, transform and change lives through the experience of dance. Celebrating its 40th season in 2017—18, under the artistic leadership of Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street continues to innovate, supporting ascendant creative talent while presenting repertory by internationally recognized living artists. Hubbard Street has grown through the establishment of multiple platforms alongside the Lou Conte Dance Studio—now in its fifth decade of providing a wide range of public classes and pre-professional training—while extensive Youth, Education, Community, Adaptive Dance and Family Programs keep the organization deeply connected to its hometown.

Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences and repertoire, which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces and contemporary works. The company's commitment to accessibility is met through an innovative and highly effective education program including the much-lauded Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, Community Engagement programs and collaborations with myriad other visual and performing arts organizations. Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956 and guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.

Chicago Human Rhythm Project, which believes tap is to dance what jazz is to music—an American contribution to global culture—has been presenting American tap and global percussive dance for almost 30 years, evolving from a summer tap festival into the world's first, year-round presenter dedicated to foot-drumming and contemporary rhythmic expression. Central to CHRP's performance, education and community activating programs is its mission to build bridges between individuals and communities through the practice and appreciation of rhythm. Whether as part of the oldest and largest tap festival on the globe, Rhythm World; the collaborative citywide percussive dance festival, STOMPING GROUNDS; year-round education programs in Chicago Public Schools, We All Got Rhythm; or its shared dance/arts incubator, the American Rhythm Center, CHRP focuses on artistic excellence, innovation, authentic diversity and cultural pluralism. CHRP received an Emmy nomination for its PBS-ITVS documentary JUBA! Master of Tap and Percussive Dance; curated the first-ever full-length tap concert in a major theater at the Kennedy Center; has officially represented the U.S. in dance festivals in South America, Asia and Europe; and has been lauded as a pioneer in the field by the New York Times. Past students receiving great acclaim include, among many others, MacArthur "Genius" Michelle Dorrance, Broadway hoofers Karissa Royster and Lee Howard and Jazz at Lincoln Center soloist Jared Grimes.

Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, founded by Dame Libby Komaiko, is Chicago's world class Spanish dance company under the dynamic leadership of her successors, Artistic Director Irma Suarez Ruiz and Executive Director Jorge Perez. The Ensemble Español is the premier Spanish dance company and center in the United States to have in-residence status at a university, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago. The company's mission is the preservation, presentation and promotion of the classical, folkloric, flamenco and contemporary dance and music traditions of Spain. Now celebrating its 41st anniversary, the company includes dancers, singers and musicians representing a mosaic of cultures from around the world. The Ensemble Español works in cultural and educational arts programs serving more than 31,000 students annually and has performed throughout the U.S. and on four continents in the countries of Mexico, Costa Rica, Poland, Australia, Canada, China and Spain. The company is currently working on an exchange program with the Irene Rodriguez Spanish Dance Company in Havana, Cuba.

Trinity Irish Dance Company, founded in 1990 to celebrate the pioneering work of Founding Artistic Director Mark Howard, is constantly searching for original means of expression while maintaining a high regard for tradition. Howard's uniquely Irish-American company was the birthplace of progressive Irish dance, which opened new avenues of artistic expression that led directly to commercial productions such as "Riverdance." By using Irish dance as an instrument and a metaphor, TIDC crossed cultural and disciplinary boundaries in important ways. Through the years, TIDC has collaborated with many noted contemporary choreographers, leading to an increased vocabulary of movement. The result is a thoroughly fresh and engaging artistic vision that goes beyond the source without losing touch with its essence. TIDC has performed to great critical and popular acclaim on stages throughout the world, with sold-out tours in Europe and Asia and appearances in such distinguished venues as Washington's Kennedy Center, New York's Joyce and New Victory Theatres, Tokyo's Orchard Hall and Los Angeles's Royce Hall, among many others. TIDC holds a unique place in the dance world, offering a highly skilled presentation of traditional Irish step dance and a brilliantly engaging interpretation of contemporary world vision.

Jessica Miller Tomlinson is a Chicago-based freelance choreographer. She was a member of Thodos Dance Chicago from 2005 to 2017, performing, touring and choreographing for the company nationally and internationally. She also has choreographed for the Chautauqua Ballet Company, DanceWorks Chicago, Chicago Repertory Ballet, The Inconvenience Performance Group, Idaho Dance Theatre, the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, North Carolina School of the Arts, Forum Dance Theatre, Nomi Dance Company, Dance in the Parks, Visceral Dance Chicago, Nebraska Contemporary Dance Theatre and Eisenhower Dance Company. Her work has been presented at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, The Joyce SoHo, The Harris Theatre for Music and Dance, The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, The Great Lakes Dance Festival, The Austrian Festival Young! Tanzsommer, the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, numerous venues nationwide and the EICC in Scotland, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Booking Dance Festival.

Visceral Dance Chicago, founded in 2013 by Artistic Director Nick Pupillo, is a contemporary dance company dedicated to a bold and progressive world of movement. In less than three years, the company has developed a diverse and respected repertoire. With works by distinguished choreographers Sidra Bell, Monica Cervantes, Robyn Mineko Williams, Brian Enos, Banning Bouldin, Harrison McEldowney, Fernando Melo, Marguerite Donlon, Ohad Naharin and Pupillo, Visceral continues to challenge audiences' expectations. In January 2015, Dance Magazine named Visceral one of its 25 to Watch. Chicago Stage Standard said, "Visceral Dance Chicago breathes life into the Chicago arts community with their ability to intertwine complex human emotions with the raw beauty of dance and physical movement."