In the early nineties, a dancer with the Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre named Keith Elliott was, like many artists of the time, losing friends and colleagues to complications caused by HIV/AIDS. “If you knew Keith, he was the kind of person who couldn’t just not do anything about it,” said Anthony Guerrero, the current producer of Dance For Life. “He was a dancer—he didn’t have money—but he could put on a show.” Elliott invited Chicago’s dance community to participate in a fundraiser performance to fight HIV/AIDS and support artists in need. Four companies immediately got involved: the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street, Giordano Dance and River North Dance, who have remained the partnering companies to this day. The first performance was held in 1992 to a sold-out house. Since then, Dance For Life has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and education. Proceeds also go to The Dancers’ Fund, an emergency fund extended artists, administrators, rehearsal pianists, anyone in the dance profession struggling with life-threatening or debilitating illness. The Dancers’ Fund goes beyond medical treatment, covering rent, utilities, food. Last year’s Dance For Life raised more than $200,000 alone.
This year’s performance features pieces from the four original partner companies plus Visceral Dance Chicago and Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. Guerrero said that the program is usually a surprise, though Visceral did recently announce they’ll perform “Impetere,” a razor-sharp ensemble ballet by artistic director Nick Pupillo. Dance For Life also commissions choreographers to create new pieces specifically for the performances, never to be performed outside. Randy Duncan, Harrison McEldowney and Jeremy Plummer have created two new works this year, casting dancers from all the participating companies and from around Chicago. Although the goal is to raise money, tickets start at an approachable level: as low as $25 for the performance to as high as $600 for the gala reception beforehand. “We want it to be accessible to everyone,” Guerrero said. “It’s by the dance community, for the dance community.” (Sharon Hoyer)
At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress, (312)922-5812. Saturday, August 16 at 8pm. Performance tickets $25-$75, gala reception plus performance tickets $250-$600.