Chicago Dancing Festival turns 5 with free shows in August

May 24, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times
Hedy Weiss


It seemed like a somewhat crazy yet wholly inspired notion five years ago. The idea, devised by choreographer Lar Lubovitch and dancer Jay Franke, was to put on a free, one-night-only dance festival on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

The event would feature a smorgasbord of ballet and contemporary dance performances by some of the finest companies on the national and international scene, and also would focus attention on this city as a fast-growing center of dance.

From the first leap, the Chicago Dancing Festival proved to be a monumental hit, attracting many thousands of dance lovers as well as others who became converts to the art. In the ensuing years the festival has expanded, with the original Saturday night gala in the park now prefaced by a week of indoor programs at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the Auditorium Theatre, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center.

This summer’s fifth anniversary Festival will run Aug. 22-27, with a lineup as follows:

† “Moderns” (7:30 p.m. Aug. 23, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph). Doug Varone & Dancers in Varone’s “Lux”; Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in Cayetano Soto’s “Uneven”; Adam Barruch in his solo work, “The Worst Pies in London”; River North Dance Chicago in Charlie Moulton’s “9-Person Precision Ball Passing,” and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Sharon Eyal’s “Too Beaucoup.” Highlights also will be presented at a noon matinee on Aug. 24 as part of the Harris’ popular lunchtime series “Eat to the Beat.”

† “MCA Moves” (6 and 8 p.m. Aug. 24, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago): Independent, avant-garde and up-and-coming dance artists will be part of a program hosted by Martha Graham impersonator Richard Move, with an outdoor, site-specific performance by Japanese Butoh exponents Eiko & Koma before the show.

† “Masters” (7:30 p.m. Aug. 25, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress): The Martha Graham Dance Company in “Embattled Garden”; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Jiri Kylian’s “Petite Mort”; Lar Lubovitch Dance Company in his “The Legend of Ten,” and more.

† “Dance Films” (10 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 26, Claudia Cassidy Theatre in the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph): Including Gene Kelly’s “Invitation to the Dance”; “A Dancer’s World” (a documentary about Martha Graham and company); “Dancemaker” (a documentary about Paul Taylor and his company) and the Michael Powell classic “The Red Shoes.”

† “Muses” (6 p.m. Aug. 26, MCA): A lecture-demo and panel featuring Janet Eilber (artistic director of the Martha Graham company); Alejandro Cerrudo (dancer and resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) and festival co-founder Lar Lubovitch.

† “Celebration of Dance” (7:30 p.m. Aug. 27, Pritzker Pavilion): The Joffrey Ballet in Balanchine’s “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”; Ballet West in Jiri Kylian’s “Sinfonietta”; Martha Graham Dance Company in “Diversion of Angels”: Paul Taylor Dance Company in “Esplanade”; New York City Ballet guest artists Gonzalo Garcia and Tiler Peck in Balanchine’s “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” and River North Dance Chicago in “9-Person Precision Ball Passing.”

For information about obtaining free tickets for the indoor events, visit

An opening-night fund-raising gala featuring performances by dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street, Martha Graham Dance Company and others (plus a cocktail reception) is slated for Aug. 22 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Tickets are $250 (312-520-2210).