Over the years, DFL has presented 31 Chicago-based professional dance companies and numerous choreographers, providing its audience with a wide array of dance styles. This is the only such event in which these incredibly talented, world-class Chicago dancers unite artistically to help those who are affected by HIV/AIDS. The dancers, companies, and choreographers involved donate their time and efforts to this cause. Dance for Life Chicago has raised millions of dollars since its beginning for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Dancers’ Fund and 28 AIDS Service Providing Organizations in Chicago.
Keith Elliott, former member of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, had experienced the loss of many close friends and dance colleagues to complications of HIV/AIDS. He felt it was time for Chicago dancers to take an active role in preventing the spread of this disease. Keith had a brilliant idea: why not bring Chicago’s dance community together for one night to dance for life! In 1991, along with Todd Kiech, Keith started to create Dance for Life, a benefit evening of dance performances. Keith and Todd enlisted the help of Harriet Ross, then associate artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater, to give Dance for Life the artist edge it needed. In 1992, Keith partnered with HIV/AIDS community activist and event fundraiser Danny Kopelson, as well as Chicago dance professional Gail Kalver. The first Dance for Life premiered at the Organic Theatre in June, 1992. Every seat was sold out.