Participation required – July dance more than idle musing

While a majority of our bigger dance venues and organizations are on hiatus for the summer, many professional dancers scatter to teach summer workshops. Even here in Chicago, there are a number of high caliber dance intensives for pre-professional hopefuls to keep the month well-occupied. And for those of us who typically spend the rest of the year gazing at dance from the plush chairs of a theater, July is a call to get up, get outside, and put your dancing shoes on.

From June 26-Aug 24, reserve Thursdays after work for SummerDance, the beloved, long-running social dance series held in Grant Park’s Spirit of the Music Garden. Each week beginning at 6 p.m., dance experts give instruction in whatever’s on tap – ranging from Zydeco Two-Step on July 4 (yes, you can boogie down on the 4th of July, too), to Chicago Bop, Salsa, Cumbia and Swing. A couple years ago, SummerDance expanded to include satellite events on Wednesday evenings in neighborhood parks, and you can catch pop-up events this year at the Taste of Chicago, too. Also under the SummerDance umbrella, catch a trio of “dance downs,” youth dance crews facing off in local street dance forms like footworking and steppin’ beginning July 27 at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center. 

Pack a picnic dinner and lay back at your local park for the 11th year, when Dance in the Parks once again traverses the city all month with its travelling show featuring top-notch choreographers and performers at a Park District near you. Kicking off July 9 at La Villita Park, this year’s production includes dances by a number of well-known dancers who are now dabbling in choreography, like Paige Fraser, Ela Olarte and Craig Miller, for example, with selections by seasoned favorites Paige Caldarella, Jessica Miller Tomlinson, Becca Lemme and Todd Rhoades. Community youth dance troupes join in to perform in their home neighborhoods, and each night ends with a rousing closer by Joshua Blake Carter.

Peppered throughout the month, a number of events designed to demystify dance and get you up close and personal with the choreographic process are scattered throughout the city. Robyn Mineko Williams concludes the latest edition of her “Undercover Episodes” July 7, the choreographer’s ongoing elegant bar crawl of intimate performances by familiar faces from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. On July 11, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre continues its popular Inside/Out, an in-progress showing and discussion series which has, since originating a few years ago, deepened the company’s work and unveiled its choreographic process. And The Seldoms kick-off a new series called “Reading Dance” July 16 at the West Loop branch of the Chicago Public Library. Far from a lecture/demonstration, this first go-around looks at how “Moby Dick” serves as an inspiration for artistic director Carrie Hanson’s current project, “Floe,” which explores climate change, extreme weather and truth vs. fiction.

Last but not least, the 29th annual Rhythm World festival kicks off July 22 at the Jazz Showcase, a veritable feast of American tap dance featuring local favorites like Star Dixon, Nico Rubio and Bril Barrett/M.A.D.D. Rhythms alongside national and international stars like Jason Janas and Charles Renato. Plus, a special outdoor performance at Navy Pier on July 24 will showcase youth tap ensembles from around the globe.

Additional July performances are listed below: