Dancers have had a particularly rough time during these past 18 months of the pandemic. After all, dance is an art form that requires daily practice. And grabbing hold of a kitchen counter as you do plies, arabesques and basic stretches is not the same as joining your fellow company members in a large studio with a good floor, where you can maintain your stamina, rehearse with partners, and (in the best of times) breathe without the suffocating effect of masks.
But Chicago dancers have persevered, found ways to dance masked or safely distanced, and perfected virtual performance. And Thursday evening, 10 companies will join forces for the 30th anniversary celebration of “Dance for Life,” the concert that serves as an annual fundraiser for Chicago Dancers United, a nonprofit founded during the AIDS era that has since morphed into a means of helping the dance community deal with and heal from crises. (Dancers very often work on a freelance basis for modest salaries and limited health insurance benefits, and during the pandemic they have needed even more help than usual.)
In recent years the Dance for Life program has been performed indoors at the Auditorium Theatre. But this year it has adjusted to the temper of the times and is being held outdoors, on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park with free admission for the first time (although reserved seats do come with a price tag, and there is a strong base of supporters for the event and its cause). As always, the dancers donate their talents.
Not surprisingly, Michael Anderson, president of Dance for Life, noted that health and wellness grant applications increased in number during the past year and a half, although the rare company (notably the Joffrey Ballet), has been able to keep its dancers on payroll. And, as Anderson noted, Chicago’s DCASE Cultural Grants program has also provided support, as has J & L Catering for this concert.
The companies that will be performing (in works that have a notably youthful vibe, and with some created during the past year) include: The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, Visceral Dance Chicago, the Trinity Irish Dance Company, the Movement Revolution Dance Crew, Dance Works Chicago, Para.Mar Dance Theatre, South Chicago Dance Theatre, and (on film) Winifred Haun and Dancers. Of course to top it all off there will be the traditional grand finale offering of a brand new work by choreographer Randy Duncan that brings together a vast array of Chicago dancers. (This year’s music is by Ira Antelis, who also has developed a We Have Loved Memorial website for families and friends of those lost during the pandemic.)
“Dance for Life” takes place Thursday from 6-8:15 p.m., with gates opening at 5 p.m. For more information, visit: chicagodancersunited.org.
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