Dance Divas returns to the Baton Lounge in “A Night At The Movies,” featuring some of Chicago’s top male-identifying dancers performing in full drag to raise money for The Dancer’s Fund, supported by Chicago Dancers United. The show features a wide variety of dance styles and original choreography by Harrison McEldowney (Hubbard Street, Chicago Dance Crash) and Dance Divas Artistic Director, Jeremy Plummer. The Saturday, May 20th performance and champagne meet-and-greet are already SOLD OUT, but there are still tickets available for the two performances on May 21—this year, see the show; next year, buy tickets early!
Dance Divas is not your run-of-the-mill drag performance (if there is such a thing)! What sets the show apart is the juxtaposition of professional concert dance and drag, a hybridization of different dance styles with the aplomb of drag. “In 1996, there were fun drag shows, but there wasn’t the hybrid of concert dancers put in drag,” said Plummer in an interview. “That’s the hook of it. They are concert dancers who perform with different companies around Chicago. They are freelance dancers, and we put them in drag for the show. It’s truly a dance concert with a drag twist.”
The lineup is nothing to sneeze at, featuring dancers Evan Boersma (Joffrey Ballet), Isaac Staufer (Chicago Tap Theater), Eddy Ocampo (LEVELdance), Cesar Salinas (Giordano Dance Chicago), Jonathan Pacheco (Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater) and even performances by both McEldowney and Plummer. The artists team up with professional drag performers who are on hand to ensure that the representation of drag is top notch. “A lot of the [drag] artists that perform at the [Baton Show Lounge] full-time and are donating their time to help with our show,” said Plummer. “They help to get our professional dancers into drag, helping with hair and makeup.” Legendary Queen, Maya Douglas, is leading up the wig and hair charge, so be prepared for a performance that pushes the limits of aesthetics as much as athletics.
All funds raised by Dance Divas go to The Dancer’s Fund, which offers dancers and those who work in the dance industry financial aid for a wealth of maladies, from critical emergencies to day-to-day support. All the money goes to charity, as there is little overhead, thanks to the donated time and talent by dancers and crew; but also, thanks to the Baton Show Lounge, which annually donates a weekend’s worth of venue and staff for the event. To ensure that funds are used responsibly, Dance Divas works with The Chicago Dancer’s Fund, a nonprofit organization that earned a “Gold Seal of Transparency” on the GuideStar database of nonprofits in 2022.
It is a sad reality that drag shows have been under fire lately, victims of the latest manufactured outrage by political opportunists. Events like Dance Divas serve as a reminder of how privileged we are to live in a city that doesn’t pass mandates against such “societal ills” as fancy brunches, dance concerts and toddler story times. When asked if Plummer had any reservations about this year’s event, his answer was quick and blunt. “Honestly, there wasn’t. We are lucky to live in Chicago and be a part of the Chicago dance community—the Chicago arts community in general. All of us that work with the show truly do consider the art of drag and female impersonation an art form first and foremost. Unfortunately, it has become quite a hot topic (when it doesn’t necessarily need to be), but we’re lucky that we’re here in the city where we can perform a show that is fun, entertaining and will hopefully raise a lot of money for a great cause.”
Like any city, the arts scene in Chicago is one-of-a-kind, and that goes double for the dance and drag scenes. Dance Divas combines the best of both to create exciting drag and female impersonation performances that you won’t find anywhere else. Most importantly, it raises a lot of money that directly affects the lives of dancers and those working in dance who, in a 2019 study co-sponsored by See Chicago Dance, were found to be some of the lowest paid entertainers in the city. “[Dance Divas] is a celebration of both Chicago’s unique dance and drag cultures,” said Plummer, “but at the root it is all about The Chicago Dancer’s Fund.”
The Saturday, May 20th performance of “Dance Divas” is SOLD OUT, but tickets are still available for May 21 at 4:30pm and 7pm at the Baton Show Lounge, 4713 N. Broadway. Tickets are $75-$150 and are available by clicking the event link below.