Preview: Elpis Dance Fest brings diverse lineup to Lincoln Park

This Saturday (Aug. 6), over 15 dance companies will take the stage at the Elpis Dance Fest, a multidisciplinary dance festival performed outside across from Café Brauer near the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The festival, hosted by Identity Performing Arts, is free to the public, and is part of the 2022 Year of Chicago Dance, a series of free events happening throughout Chicago. The Elpis Dance Fest runs from 11am to 3pm, with 8 dance companies performing during the first hour, then a half hour of performance by pre-professional dance companies, followed by more new works and some favorites from the first act to bring it all home. While accessible by public transportation, there is a pre-paid parking lot across from the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Ginny Ching-Yin Lo, Founder of Identity Performing Arts and Director of the festival, was adamant that the program be diverse stylistically, culturally and spiritually. “I’m seeing that the stage needs to be open to much more diversity in our Chicago community,” said Lo in an interview. “I never see a festival involving mainstream companies and cultural companies — culturally like Chinese dance and African dance — as well as faith-based companies.” Lo expressed concern that, even when a show presents dance to an audience that may be unfamiliar with that particular style, company or choreographer, that the program itself often lacks diversity. “My vision is, we want to make a less segregated festival. Usually there is only modern dance — and there is nothing wrong with that — or cultural, or hip hop or faith-based… And I just thought, why can’t we put everyone together with the symbol that we are the Chicago dance community. Just share the stage together, in harmony and peace, and to appreciate each other’s genre and style.”

Looking at the lineup, it’s a wonder that they can fit it all into four hours! Dance companies you may recognize include Ballet 5:8, Identity Performing Arts, Still Inspired, and the Meadows Dance Collective. They will be joined by solo artists Kweku Bransah and Vantenia Kelley. The program boasts other performance groups not often seen alongside dancers and companies previously mentioned.

The Chicago Flying Fairies is an award-winning Chinese dance troupe, a proven hit at other festival showcases. The program also includes faith-based dance organizations ALATS Dance and Dance Eternal. Extensions Dance, a Chicago dance studio and pre-pro company known for rocking the stage with a veritable army of dancers, is also part of the bill.

Another company taking the stage is the up-and-coming South Chicago Dance Theater, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary with a performance at the Harris Theater last May. In an interview, Artistic Director Kia Smith cites Lo’s positivity and enthusiasm as the catalyst for her wanting to get SCDT involved in the festival. “I have met Ginny through a friend,” said Smith, “and I was really energized by her. She’s really passionate about her company, about bringing people together, she’s passionate about her faith… I think just her passion and energy made us want to be a part of it.”

The Elpis Dance Fest is a cornucopia of dance, and Lo warns that “Bring a blanket if you are going to stay for all four hours, because it’s all a totally different show.” According to Lo “You may see only two acts repeat because those acts are really cool!” Lest you worry about sitting for too long, Lo is one (dance) step ahead of you, and guarantees that “The DJ, indeed, will play some music and we will incorporate some dancing on the grass. That’s a fun part, too.”

If you are looking for a reason to get out this Saturday afternoon, the reason to attend a free dance festival like the Elpis Dance Fest can best be summed up by Kia Smith: “I think that they activate neighborhoods like nothing else does. It brings a different energy to a park that maybe a music show might not, or a comedy show might not. There’s something about people moving together that’s just beautiful.” Movies in the parks can be rented at home and music may get you on your feet, but why not treat yourself to something truly unique, like the powerful esthetic experience of seeing dance, performed by some amazing companies, for FREE, in a convenient location — truly one of the perks of living in and near Chicago.