August Unites Chicago Dancers



DANCE FOR LIFE CHICAGO (August 19, 7:30 PM, Auditorium Theatre) is arguably the Chicago dance community’s single most significant event of the year. Unique in its scope, it serves as a model for the arts community throughout the country, uniting the very highest levels of artistic achievement with the very noblest of humanitarian endeavors in its annual showcase of what makes Chicago dance, and Chicago’s dancers, so very special.

The annual benefit dance concert presenting and showcasing the city’s unique diversity of talent, dance traditions and styles brings 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 donating 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.

Last year, “Dance For Life” celebrated its 25th anniversary year with a spectacular demonstration of artistry, vitality, and humanity. “What do you do with twenty-six?” asks Phil Reynolds, newly appointed executive director of Chicago Dancers United.

“So much of the attention and motivation  of our work is around raising funds and granting back through the Chicago Dancers United Dancers’ Fund,” he said. Reynolds is struck by the “amazing degree of commitment and involvement" of the CDU Board of Directors. “This crowd is unbelievably energetic and giving of their time and effort, they are so on it!” In addition to the Board, a whole corps of dancers and non-dancers volunteer “like crazy.” Reynolds was initially overwhelmed by the outpouring of help, characterizing his office “running lean and mean so we can give it back to the community.” 

One of his biggest concerns is to increase awareness that the Chicago Dancers’ Fund is available, and to override any hesitation some dancers may feel about potential stigmatization.  He reassures that “Our guiding principles include a high degree of confidentiality.”  

“The idea behind assistance is resilience,” he explained. “If you’ve been hit by something, how do you ask for help? How do you accept the help? And how do you get back up? It’s fairly short term, and it’s a very simple application.” To enhance access to The Dancers’ Fund, CDU is entering into partnerships with other health and human services organizations to facilitate referrals as well. 

An experienced presenter of dance in Chicago, Reynolds was in charge of The Dance Center of Columbia College, the city’s leading presenter of contemporary dance, for 17 years before assuming his new position with CDU.

Giordano Dance Chicago SeeChicagoDance asked Phil what his biggest challenge is since taking the helm of CDU in January.  “Sustaining the energy and enthusiasm into the 26th season!” And how, we asked, will you do that?  No hesitation there, Reynolds chirped, “First, make it a great program!” 

There’s no doubt this year’s roster of Dance For Life’s three resident companies and first-time participants will launch the next quarter century with a powerhouse program. 

Giordano Dance Chicago will reprise Randy Duncan’s magnificent "Can’t Take This Away," (1997), featuring 15 dancers and set to music performed live by The Bournés Family, a veritable choreographic preview of Paradise.

Hubbard Street performs two works. Nacho Duato's lyrical "Jardi Tancat" (1983) for three couples is set to Catalan music recorded by vocalist María del Mar Bonet. Catalonian for “Closed Garden,” the piece reveals the movements of sowing, planting and threshing of the barren Catalonian land. Crystal Pite’s "Joy" heart-stopping solo, "A Picture of You Falling" is danced by retiring Hubbard Street company member, Jason Horton, celebrating his tenth season with Hubbard Street and performing in Dance For Life.

The Joffrey Ballet performs an excerpt from Alexander Ekman’s  "Joy" (2017) to music by Django Django. Commissioned by The Joffrey in association with Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley, the piece received its world premiere in April 2017 during The Joffrey’s spring program at the Auditorium Theatre.


Trinity Irish Dance

Chicago Human Rhythm Project/Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater/Trinity Irish Dance will present a triptych showcase of three duets, "In the Meantime," which converge in a culminating segment.


"In Tongues"

Jessica Miller Tomlinson Choreography performs "In Tongues," an abstract work loosely based on the quirky, over-the-top stage persona of Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne set to the band’s music. 



"Ruff Celts" Visceral Dance Chicago performs "Ruff Celts" (2016), choreographed by Marguerite Donlon, who, inspired by the dancers’ personalities, uses a mixed score of contemporary Irish and German composers in this dynamic, dark-humored work.

Topping off the program with Chicago dance solidarity, a world premier choreographed by Randy Duncan unites dancers from Dance For Life, along with independent artists and dancers from other

Chicago companies in a concert finale with original music by Andy Mitran.

Spicing up entr’acte repartee with improvisational high jinx will be the effervescent Carisa Barreca of The Second City, serving as emcee for the event.

For tickets, click on “Upcoming Events.” For details on how you can help, go to


THE BRICKLAYERS OF OZ/CHICAGO DANCE CRASH (July 28-August 5; Ruth Page Center, 8 PM) The Hip Hop Origin Story of the Yellow Brick Road, with narration and original lyrics by "The Bricklayers of Oz" rapper Al Tapper . Who sweeps up the confetti in Munchkinland? As the flagship production of Crash's 15th Season, ‘Bricklayers’ is an action-packed street tale of the lesser known laborers within The Land of Oz. Crash's hip hop fusion style tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the East and her power-hungry plan to coax others into building her a magical road followed quickly by the realization and uprising of an otherwise ignored group of people. This family-appropriate production uses lollipops and breakdancing as an allegory for modern day politics and what it's like growing up as a "Second-Class Citizen of Paradise.”



DANCE IN THE PARKS (August 1, Jefferson Memorial Park, 6 PM; August 3, Rutherford Memorial Park, 6 PM; August 4, Kenwood Community Park, 6 PM; August 5, Boundary Park, 6 PM) Dance in the Parks brings FREE professional dance concerts to outdoor venues in the parks. In its 9th season, the all-ages show of modern, jazz, contemporary, and tap works is created and performed by professional Chicago artists. Each show features guest youth performers from neighborhood dance programs and ticket giveaways. Dance in the Parks is presented as part of Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Park District's Night Out in the Parks initiative.

A FOOL’S JOURNEY: MISFIT CIRCUS (Chopin Theatre, August 3-5 and 10-12, 8 PM; August 6 and 13, 5 PM) Beginning with the fool’s card in the tarot deck, this circus cabaret style show exposes our unconscious thoughts and desires. “A Fool’s Journey” is a new experimental contemporary circus cabaret that digs into the symbolism and revelatory nature of the tarot deck. Featuring live music by Bret Koontz, the show takes the viewer though a wide variety of acts (tightwire, acrobatics, hand balancing, juggling and more) that investigate the tarot’s major symbols and themes.  A Fool’s Journey is a premiere Misfit Circus production, a circus collaborative founded by Molly Plunk (clown, wire walker) and Natalie Abell (hand balancing, aerial rope).

Body Passages (Saturday, August 19, 8pm, CDE Auditorium, 1650 W. Foster Ave and Sunday, August 20, 7pm at Uncommon Ground,1401 W. Devon Ave) is a dance and poetry project between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble (CDE) and Poetry Center of Chicago (PCC). “Body Passages” is a new performance series curated by Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble (CDE) and Poetry Center of Chicago (PCC) that encourages the crossing of artists and audiences. CDE and PCC have paired local professional dancers and poets to create their own artist-led projects fusing language and movement. Paired artists participate in on-going conversations and exchanges with other pairs to explore fluidity, form, and rhythm as they relate to a variety of topics. Performances discuss life stages, womanhood, relationships, nature, and more. The two performances at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium and Uncommon Ground are a translation of these conversational exchanges.

SET FREE (August 24-27, Links Hall, 7 PM) presents “Better Versions of Prayers,” choreographed by J’Sun Howard and performed by J’Sun Howard, Dedrick “Deddy Bank” Gray & William Harris. “Better Versions of Prayers” makes a space for black boy joy.  A poetic testimony that miracles erupt at any moment. Through self-portraits, ecstasy, and forms of floating–disappearing, hollowing, and possession–this work also flirts with notions of divine radical presence and how it holyficates.

“Evergreen,” composed and improvised by Katie Ernst & Jessica Marasa, takes inspiration from trees whose leaves remain year round.  With this lifegiving strategy at heart, bassist Katie Ernst and Jessica Marasa use their improvisational interests to practice the possibility of continuity.  This possibility employs the process increasing one’s willingness to trust the life in each moment as it arises, remains and passes away.

“DANCE VILLAGE,” SUMMER DANCE-OFF CELEBRATION (August 26, Wrigley Square in Millennium Park, 12 noon-6 PM) In collaboration with Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Audience Architects presents Dance Village, a summer celebration highlighting various forms of dance through neighborhood competitions, with finale performances at a day-long dance festival in Millennium Park! Free and open to the pubic.