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Fouettés and Prince

Friday, September 02, 2016 Jennie Velasco

Dance for Life presents a worthy celebration in its 25th year

I had arrived at the Dance or Life gala held at the Chicago Hilton Hotel.  The towering walls are donning red lighting while the business around it is both social and welcoming.  I met many retired dancers who have progressed into teaching positions around the Chicago area.  Many were wearing bows that signified they were alumni of the showcase, and many that I met came from the legendary Giordano Dance company.  It was an opportunity to meet many of the donors that have contributed to Chicago dance on several levels, and all were humbly honored to be here.  Of course, I was also among the honored to speak to the many who have amplified the Chicago dance scene and equated its importance than that of other major cities.

Founder Keith Elliot with Co-chair Harriet Ross and Danny Kopelson

Once upon a time a young dancer (but older than most) attempted to take a workshop from the father of this grand showcase, Keith Elliot.  Way beyond my comprehension of what I knew about dance, Keith was skilled and had so much character.  He made dancing fun, adventurous, and unique.  It was unlike the dancing "norms" you thought you had seen growing up, but that was the purpose of art.  A transitional, ever-fleeting, interpretation of what dance was to one person.


The showcase was created to rally dancers to take an active role in preventing the spread of AIDS, after losing too many close friends and dance colleagues.  This was an opportunity to raise money and clearly Dance for Life.  32 Chicago-based professional dance companies and choreographers have presented at the reputable show to validate its unique and diverse talent. This year's lineup included:
Joffrey Ballet
Giordano Dance Chicago
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Chicago Dance Crash
Visceral Dance Chicago
and World Premiers from:
Harrison McEldowney
Randy Duncan

Chicago Dance Crash

There were also special tributes throughout the evening to honor long-time supporters of Dancer for Life Fred Eychaner, Barbara Kipper, Scott Silberstein and Matt Hoffman of HMS Media.  The performances were both vibrant and unique.  An opening piece, Sing, Sing, Sing  displayed a treasured number from Gus Giordano or often referenced to as Mr. G.  Heartwarming and also nostalgic performances from the Joffrey, while newcomers Visceral Dance brought a brilliant contemporary piece set to a live percussionist.  Chicago Dance Crash surprised and moved the audience with what felt like a street style contemporary; both edgy and lucid technique.  The finale to act 1 is why I mentioned Prince.  The piece was called, Purple Medley and had a handful of Prince songs paired with thoughtful and innovative performances that the Purple One himself would have loved.  The 2nd act was equally as revitalizing and joyous with another happy performance from Giordano Dance called Alegria that had the crowd excited and cheering.

Giordano Chicago Dance- Alegria

Randy Duncan had held open auditions to Chicago dancers for his finale piece in the show titled, Depth of Light.  It was moving and maybe even a bit tribal which created some intimate connections to people and perhaps nature.  Rounding up the show with this finale certainly had the audience to its feet, myself included.

Visceral Dance Chicago- Vital

Throughout the night we were entertained with some comedy from actors of The Second City.  They provided some breakup to the show while honoring what the show represented (some hilarious Trump jabs too) and showcasing some of the incredible merchandise available for purchase.
I've said it before that uniting the city during an uncomfortable time of unrest truly sheds hope onto aching hearts.  Art has a tremendous way of stirring up the inner light within us, and to project our hearts onto different mediums while creating a desire for progress.  I applaud the remarkable talent in Chicago and its passion to create change and awareness. Congratulations to Keith Elliot and Dance for Life on an astounding 25 years!

Visceral Dance Chicago

Photos courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates

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