Twenty-six years ago, the dance community of Chicago was hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Tired of watching his friends get sick and die, a young dancer decided to do something about it. As a dancer himself, Keith Elliott didn’t have money to give, so he did what he knew how to do…put on a show to raise the funds to help. Dance for Life uses the art of dance to make a difference in people’s lives. This event continues today and in response to the changing needs of Chicago’s dance community, evolutions in the nature of HIV/AIDS, the growth of the annual event and its other programs, DFL has matured into a nonprofit organization, Chicago Dancers United (CDU).
Continuing with our core concept of the dance community in Chicago taking care of its own, CDU mobilizes Chicago’s dance community to support organizations and dance community professionals dealing with critical health issues, including, but not limited to HIV/AIDS, through the art of dance. As a unified dance community in Chicago, we are utilizing the art of dance to support a stronger and healthier community by focusing on its health and well-being. We do this through The Dancers’ Fund, Dance for Life Chicago and The Awareness Initiative.
The Dancers’ Fund provides financial assistance (grants) to dance community professionals dealing with critical health issues creating a significant financial, emergency, or catastrophic hardship. Although this program was created in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the dance community, our mission has now broadened. The fund offers assistance in, but not limited to, the following areas: housing, utilities, insurance, medication and travel. Designed to help qualified individuals meet their financial obligations while dealing with their health issues, The Dancers’ Fund is available to Chicago-based, professionally trained working dancers and those whose primary source of income is derived by serving the dance community. This includes, but is not limited to: dancers in a professional dance company, choreographers, dance company full-time administration/production/technical personnel, full-time dance instructors, freelance dancers, musical theatre chorus dancers, and full-time class/rehearsal piano accompanists.
Dance for Life Chicago is the annual benefit dance concert presenting and showcasing the city’s unique diversity of talent, dance traditions and styles by bringing together the incredibly talented, world-renowned professional dancers of Chicago for one night on the same stage. The dance community unites artistically to support those affected by critical health issues by generously donate their time, energy and artistry to the cause. Funds raised assist various organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS and other health issues as well as The Dancers’ Fund.