Banks Performance Project kicks off year two with a community celebration of dance in Englewood

In a whirlwind of rehearsals happening over a few weeks, Banks Performance Project (BPP) prepares to bring Chicago’s Englewood and other South and West Side communities together in a celebration of dance and the neighborhoods they call home. 

Banks Performance Project’s second annual “Our Community. Our Art” highlights the progression of the dancer from student to professional, bringing friends, family and any other interested audience members to the Hamilton Park Cultural Center on Oct. 18 to engage with four student dance groups and two professional dance companies. Local student groups Mayfair Performing Company, Kenwood School of Ballet, RhythmWerks and Praize Productions, Inc. will perform alongside tap dancer Kenn Russell and BPP. The evening’s pre-show reception and performances will be free admission.

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, BPP founder and artistic director Elysia C. Banks knows the lack of representation in and access to dance for many young artists of color growing up in those communities. With BPP she strives to make her company and work accessible to anyone—especially those living on the South Side. Through “Our Community. Our Art,” BPP furthers that mission by demonstrating to both audiences and the youth performers how dedication to dance class and training leads to an attainable career in dance. 

“I’m just really excited for the community to see the youth—and their parents and their aunts and uncles, just people at large who live in Englewood and on the South Side—that the arts are available to us too,” Banks said. “We exist here. We make dances. We have careers. We run companies.”

BPP will present “Keen,” a work choreographed by Banks that premiered back in May. As company member Shanna Cruzat revisits the work for the second time, she noted how in rehearsals Banks provided clear insight into the emotional and personal meaning behind the movement creating a “reflective process” that allows Cruzat to embody those emotions and experiences as a performer in the work.  

More about “Our Community. Our Art” can be found in the video above. Banks invites audiences to support a small, hardworking organization while celebrating the thriving arts community on Chicago’s South Side. 

“Come see these kids dance and come get to know BPP,” Banks said. “See that with what little we have, we are doing our best to positively affect the Englewood community and the South Side community—because everything we do, from now on moving forward is South Side-based.”


“Our Community. Our Art.” is Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:00p.m. at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center, 513 W. 72nd St. Tickets and more information are available by clicking the event link below.