Dance for Life’s annual benefit performance will take place August 17 at 6 p.m.at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago, followed by a gala reception at the Hilton Chicago.
Dance for Life mobilizes Chicago’s vibrant dance community by raising funds through dance that support organizations and dance professionals facing critical health issues; dance professionals generously donate their time, energy and artistry to the cause. Throughout its history, Dance for Life has presented 37 Chicago-based professional dance companies and numerous choreographers.
Proceeds from Dance for Life benefit The Dancer’s Fund, originally established in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the dance community, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
The Dancers’ Fund now also offers assistance in housing, utilities, insurance, medication and travel. As a unifier of Chicago’s dance community, Dance for Life supports a thriving dance community by focusing on its health and well being through the Dancers’ Fund.
Dance for Life showcases the city’s unique variety of dance traditions and styles by bringing together talented, world-renowned professional dancers from Chicago on the same stage. Former Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) dancer and award-winning choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams presents a “first look” at Echo Mine performed by Robyn Mineko Williams and Artists, inspired by the late Claire Bataille, one of HSDC’s founding dancers, as well as a choreographer and director of the Lou Conte Dance Studio.
Choreographer Randy Duncan, a 3-time recipient of Chicago’s prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the year, as well as numerous other awards and accolades, is Dance Department Chair of The Chicago Academy for the Arts. He’s been choreographing the finale for Chicago’s Dance for Life fundraising gala since 1994, and received the 2013 AIDS Foundation of Chicago Civic Leadership Award for his work with Dance for Life.
For this year’s program, Duncan is creating a finale using dancers from around the city of Chicago to conclude the evening on a high note. I had the opportunity to interview Randy about his dedication to and history with this important yearly event. “The purpose of Dance for Life is to raise funds for those dancers in the dance community who are living with life-threatening illnesses”, he said.
“When I first started, all of the companies- all of whom are volunteers for the event- were presenting something from their own repertoires. I felt it would be great to take a dancer or 2 from each company, add others, and pull them together into a new group to create a finale”, he went on. “It has really been something quite spectacular for these artists to get to dance together in different combinations and in new pieces, working with composers like Andy Mitran.” Duncan enthused, “Unlike the works presented by the distinct companies involved, for the finale I am using dancers from Joffrey coupled with dancers from Giordano, from Hubbard Street, and including free-lancers”.
Understandably, Duncan kept the specifics of the finale under wraps, but provocatively stated, “It’ll be exciting and a bit soulful.” He added, “What’s really meaningful about the event overall as well as about my work on the finale is that this is for and about the dance community. Folks are helping each other. We can’t really do without one another”.
In addition to the works by Robyn Mineko Williams and Randy Duncan, the program includes:
- Giordano Dance Chicago performs SOUL, choreographed by Ray Leeper, a high-energy contemporary work to music performed by Tina Turner, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Al Green.
- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs an excerpt from Decadance/Chicago, choreographed by Ohad Naharin, which has been called “spectacularly immersive” by the Chicago Tribune and “a journey you’ll want to experience over and over” by the New York Times.
- The Joffrey Ballet performs a pas de deux from Bells, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov for the Joffrey to music by Sergei Rachmaninov, which is based in classical ballet but is more contemporary, with hints of Russian folk dance. The second work, Lorelei, choreographed by Nicolas Blanc to music by Jessica Rose Weiss, is a haunting tale, based on the mythological title character, that explores the energy of longing and the movement of desire, as Lorelei and Henri dance a pas de deux quite literally to death.
- Chicago Dance Crash performs Leap of Faith, choreographed by Artistic Director Jessica Deahr, which showcases its span of breakdance, acrobatics, hip hop and concert dance techniques with a celebration of movement in the most raw, pure form.
- Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Stone Soup Rhythms performs MOVEMENT 11, choreographed by Dani Borak, who was inspired by the musical work of the same name by Bugge Wesseltoft, Henrik Schwarz and Dan Berglund. Borak fell in love with the music’s strong mystical tension and tantric groove, made even more powerful by its simplicity. The movements and rhythms evolved through a process of captured improvisation, music visualization and emotional response.
- Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater performs an excerpt from Mar de Fuego/Sea of Fire, a flamenco contemporary ballet choreographed by Carlos Rodriguez, which he dedicates to the late Dame Libby Komaiko, Ensemble Español founder, for her love, passion and dedication to the art form of Spanish dance, music, arts, culture and education.
Dance for Life Chicago, which takes place Saturday, August 17, begins with the performance at 6 p.m. at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr., followed by a gala reception and Summer Bites at the Hilton Chicago Grand Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan Ave.
Tickets—$300–650 for both the performance and gala reception and $15–75 for the performance only are available by phone at 312.341.2300, online at chicagodancersunited.org or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office. Group tickets (10 or more) are available by calling 312.341.2300.
Dance for Life supports organizations and dance professionals facing critical health issues. Proceeds from Dance for Life benefit The Dancers’ Fund, which was established in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the dance community, andthe AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The Dancers’ Fund now offers assistance in, but is not limited to, health matters, housing, utilities, insurance, medication and travel.As a unifier of Chicago’s dance community, Dance for Life supports a thriving dance community by focusing on its health and well-being through The Dancers’ Fund.
For more information about Dance for Life, visit chicagodancersunited.org.