The Chicago Dance History Project is living up to its name in its first ever “interview marathon,” comprised of over 40 dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors.
In a seven-hour live interview marathon Sunday, dancers from across the country will reflect on Chicago’s impact over the course of their dance careers.
“The point is to amplify voices that aren't necessarily heard and spotlight people or topics who have worked in the field tirelessly for decades,” Jenai Cutcher said.
It’s an oral history initiative, coordinated by Cutcher, who’s the executive artistic director of the Chicago Dance History Project. The purpose is to not only share the stories of dancers that have impacted the city, but to document it for future generations.
“The Chicago Dance History Project started because we realized we didn't even know the history of dance in this city,” Cutcher said. “So I see the project as learning alongside everyone else. When people think of dance, they think of New York, but it really couldn't be further from the truth. Chicago has been a dance hub for quite some time.”
Bril Barrett of M.A.D.D. Rhythms, a Black tap dance company is one of the featured interviews.
“Tap dance gave me a life,” Barrett said. “Born and raised on the West Side of Chicago, if it wasn’t for tap, I don’t know where I would be. Then to turn around and say I gave that back--that’s the point.
“The whole M.A.D.D. Rhythms, making a difference, dancing rhythms, that’s what it means because that’s been the goal since me and Martin Dumas III started this company 20 years ago. To stay constant and rooted in the community. We now have professional members who started in our school at 5 and 6 years old. We created a pipeline.”
Founder Lou Conte of Hubbard Street Dance and Lou Conte Dance Studio will share how he got his start, leading up to founding Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
“That’s when I came back to Chicago in 1972 and decided to make Chicago my home.” Conte said. “I’d been in and out many times since I was 18. For 10 years in and out, I’d been all over the country, dancing with different companies, all kinds of different work things. But I always loved Chicago.”
With additional 15-minute conversations geared toward group discussions, CDHP intends to touch on dance education on the South Side, the value of artistic directing, and the future of dance in Chicago.
“I hope the interview marathon also illustrates in this time we’re still here,” Cutcher said. “Even if we're not gathering on stages and performing in that way just yet, we’re keeping the traditions of dance alive, by sharing history one person to another just like we always have been.”
The interview marathon will be streamed at 11 a.m. on Sunday at https://www.chicagodancehistory.org/events
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.