Mayor Emanuel praises Chicago Dancing Festival, Shakespeare show

August 21, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
Hedy Weiss

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For Mayor Rahm Emanuel this has been a summer of some big artistic successes. First there was the total audience of about 10,000 people (including the mayor and his family), who flocked to parks throughout the city to see the free Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of “The Taming of the Shrew.” And now there is the free Chicago Dancing Festival, which the mayor and his family attended Monday at the Harris Theater, and will catch again at the Auditorium Theatre on Wednesday and in Millennium Park on Saturday along with what he expects to be many thousands of other people.

Although he did not want to reveal future ideas he had for the dance festival, Emanuel said the Shakespeare project so far exceeded expectations that he hoped to have more theater in the parks next summer, and has been talking to various CEOs about underwriting it.

“And watching the Joffrey, Hubbard Street and the Giordano companies on Monday [it] was a reminder of the depth and breadth of this city’s classical and modern companies,” the mayor said during an interview on Tuesday.

Emanuel and his family (as well as former Mayor Richard M. Daley and family) were both at the Harris to catch a formidable all-Chicago program that included terrific performances by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Joffrey Ballet and Giordano Dance Chicago. Neatly bookending the professionals were two playful, community-driven pieces: The world premiere of “Touch of Soul,” New York-based choreographer Nicholas Leichter’s complex, ingeniously devised, spirit-raising hip-hop piece, wonderfully performed by several dozen dancers from Maggie Daley’s After School Matters program, and the sweetly goofy “Bolero Chicago,” devised by New York’s Larry Keigwin + Company, set to the Ravel classic and performed with great ebullience by about 40 Chicago volunteers united by their sheer delight in turning pedestrian movement into a whimsically “danced” evocation of the Chicago cityscape.

“It’s so exciting to see the way the city has taken to these things,” said Emanuel, who was especially impressed by the Joffrey Ballet’s virtuosic performance of the ultra-modern William Forsythe ballet, “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.”