The Chicago Dancing Festival's Opening Night a Joyous Celebration of Dance

August 21, 2012
Shari Schmidt


The opening night of the Chicago Dancing Festival was a joyous celebration of all things dance. From the exuberance of high school students to the closing community created Chicago Bolero, Chicago Dancing wowed the audience at every turn.

When the Hip Hop Culture Dance Ensemble of the After School Matters program stormed on stage during an original work commissioned just for them by the Chicago Dancing Festival I thought, "This could change their lives." There were a bunch of talented artists sharing the stage with world-renowned, professional dancers from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Giordano Dance Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet. Can you imagine being able to put that an application to a college dance program?

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brought a Twyla Tharp choregraphed performance to life with amazing results. The Norma Kamali costumes were as much a part of the performance as their movements. The curtains closed between each performance which I came to think of as a palate cleanser between courses. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was a much different performance than After School Matters. It was nice to have a movement to savor one performance before the next started.

Giordano Dance Chicago bought a comedic element to the night with "Two Becomes Three." The narrator was a never-seen performer in the dance who added the perfect comedic timing to the dance. By the end the audience laughed many, many times at the dancers and narrator.

By the time the Joffrey Ballet occupied the stage the audience was ready for more. The electronic score was something you'd expect to hear in a dance club, not at a ballet performance. It was a wonderful complement to the seemingly severe style of the dancers. From their movements to their facial expressions, this was not a soft and pretty ballet. It was a strong, serious dance showcasing the talents of the most talented dancers.

The highlight of the night -- with apologies to the professional dancers -- had to be Bolero Chicago. It was amazing to see how a community of people who had never met before could spend two or three intense weeks creating a playful piece of dance. Don't get me wrong. This was not a showcase of dance talent like the performances by Hubbard Street Chicago, the Giordano Dance Company or the Joffrey Ballet. This was an all out riot with dancers so thrilled to be on the stage that they could hardly contain themselves. When Benny the Bull came on stage and did a few moves the theater went wild. It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful, joyous evening.

The best part about last night was that it was the first night of the Chicago Dancing Festival. There's still plenty of time to get in on the fun. Today dancing movies are highlighted during free showings at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Don't miss this opportunity to be part of the country's largest free dancing festival.