Think dance is all tutus and leotards? Dance Chicago is here to prove otherwise. In embracing the diversity of the local dance community, the month-long Dance Chicago Festival serves up a kinetic smorgasbord to please any palate.
Now in its thirteenth year, the festival continues to adjust programming to suit audience needs. John Schmitz, artistic director of Dance Chicago, says that the goal of the festival has always been to “make dance palatable to what we would call a general audience. When I came into the business there was no general audience for dance. We’ve created that.”
A general audience also translates to a younger audience. With programs like the “Holiday Kids Show” and the “Dance Slam” competition, the youthful appeal is apparent. Once roped in, Schmitz is hopeful that audiences will return to try out different programs. “The idea is to move them up the ladder.”
Dance Chicago puts butts in the seats with one hand and offers much needed artist support with the other. In particular, the “Extended Views” program helps choreographers who don’t have a company or resources of their own to create a fleshed-out presentation of their work. “The idea of ‘Extended Views,’” Schmitz says, “was to let the choreographer function like they would if they had their own company—have them curate their own show and help them market their own show.”
The artists presenting their work in the “Extended Views” program are frequent festival participants Dmitri Peskov, Jon Lehrer and Viola Elkins. Peskov will present work that includes a piece based on his grandmother’s experience in a Russian gulag. Lehrer will present work that includes such themes as mental instability and an underwater society. Elkins, who has worked with Culture Shock Chicago, will present work that includes part of her Rhythm and Groove Exchange Project.
Whether viewing the work of well-known local dance companies or discovering a new choreographer, Schmitz says that all the programs are designed for audiences to “reach a higher level of emotional satisfaction. The purpose here is to transform, and also let people know that dance is not just for a certain select group of people.” (Tamara Matthews)
At the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport, (312)902-1500. This production is now closed.