Old Town School Unites Chicago Dance Scene at "Community"


Old Town School event “Community” celebrates that and so much more. When we hear the word community, ideas of togetherness and being with like-minded people surface to mind. Feelings of acceptance and belonging come into play and ultimately you found your “tribe” or “people.”

Those who attended Old Town School’s “Community, A Choreographer's Festival” were exposed to a display of the colorful and diverse dance scene in Chicago. I saw the support of both fellow dancers and dance lovers coming together, and being moved by meaningful, funny, and insightful pieces.

Each piece brought a unique and essential contribution to the dance community. Old Town School’s encompassing collection of such diverse work in one program was awe inspiring.

The evening showcased a vast display of artistic styles and choices. Choreographer Jessi Stegall's choice of omitting music for the majority of her piece allowed for the intentional use of floral dresses to create sound to fill the space. This also allowed for the use of audible breath to keep the dancers in sync.

Some creatives went the opposite route, incorporating a live guitarist and a full ensemble playing castanets to make their vision come to life. Choreographer Maya Taitianna Lucero invites the audience to a Flamenco story, full of passion and utilizes the body for time keeping purposes.

The night offered plenty of opportunities for laughter and lighthearted fun which was refreshing. In “Satisfied” the dancers of “Chicago Movement Collective” switched their hips in sassy jazzy moves, with bright smiles on each performer's face.

Using Latin dance to showcase confidence with sultry hip circles and pivots so sharp you’d think twice before getting too close to choreographer Denita Inez’s full flavored Latin dance. Notes of African and Classical dance all make appearances as “Desueno Dance” light up the stage in sparkles.

Staying on the theme of music that makes you dance in your seat (I couldn’t have been the only one) “Culture Shock Chicago” closed the show with a stunning display of diverse street dance styles.

Choreographer Christopher Courtney did the street dance community proud with popping, locking, house, waving, hip hop, whacking, and breaking. He stays true to themes of freestyle circles (sacred and ritualistic in most street dance forms) all the while empowering tracks like “I’m Every Woman” (hence me dancing in my seat).

A number of pieces incorporated props to help convey their message. The biggest one of the night being an inflatable mattress seen in “Love Hurts” choreographed by Justin Kimball.

Comedy Dance Chicago has two performers reach, grab, thrust and spoon one another in a hilarious manner of cuddles and suggestive affection. All while maintaining the mattress upright. Earning tons of laughs and applause.

A more serious dance by choreographer and performer Juliann Wang utilized a fan. In “The Vision of Desire” we see the fan used in a ritualistic way, as Wang kneels before the fan then dances with it with grace, precision, and intention.

As one of the only solos of the evening, we see the articulation of carefully executed movement, right down to the pointing and flexing of her foot. This adds to the sense of sacredness and is reminiscent of other culturally specific east Asian dances.

Choreographer Mark Gonzalez’s “Silent Proclamation” not only used a chair, but also excerpts and audio clips to share the emotional journey that men go through when they openly identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Gonzalez shares with the audience not only his experiences with this journey of queerness, but those of his dancers as well.

As they launch into one another’s arms, tenderly kiss, and weave up and down the floor, the vulnerability reads from start to finish, as we walk with them on their journey of acceptance and love.

This is just a taste of how deliciously rich the artistry was at Old Town School’s “Community, A Choreographers Festival”. When I think of Chicago dance, a whirlwind of styles and expressions comes to mind.

Under the roof of Szold Hall, I not only saw that, but I felt it. I was moved differently by each piece and was honored to say that I am a part of this community.