Pictured: Thodos Dance Chicago.
Summer's for festivals, and this month brings two huge, weeklong events to Chicago's dance fans. Opening Wed., July 22, is a slew of performances programmed as part of the 2009 Jazz Dance World Congress ( JDWC ) . Produced here by Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs, the JDWC is to jazz dance what Cannes is to film buffs and just as international. Held in locations over its 29-year history as diverse as Japan, Germany, Mexico and Costa Rica, it's nevertheless foremost a Chicago tradition—this will be the seventh time it invites companies the world over to the Windy City.
The "Congress" part is designed to expose attendees as much as possible to the expertise of its guest faculty and panelists. Classes are held daily; teachers, dancers and administrators in the field host discussions; and, new this year, auditions for well-regarded collegiate dance programs ( at the University of Arizona, University at Buffalo, Hofstra University, and Point Park University and others ) as well as performer positions at Royal Caribbean International will give attending dancers multiple opportunities to seek out the next phase of their careers.
Each evening, though, is a celebration of the form open to the public: Each night, seven companies will present dances and—while the full rundown is too expansive to get into here—some highlights are a pair of world premieres by Japan's Masashi Action Machine on the July 23-24 programs: Mexico's Cuerpo Etéreo Danza Contemporánea Friday, and the début of Sherry Zunker's Mature Dance Project ( a who's who of brilliant Chicago artists in their thirty-teens ) ; moreover Philadelphia's Philadanco! will premiere July 25. A choreography competition and the premiere of the documentary Gus, an American Icon July 22 round out the festival's incredible smorgasbord.
Tap dance and the percussive arts are celebrated and honored each year at Rhythm World which, like the JDWC, is composed of opportunities to learn and appreciate. July 27 marks the kickoff of residencies, workshops and master classes by an impressive roster of tap virtuosos like Sam Weber, Derick Grant, Jakari Sherman, Chloe Arnold, Jason Samuels Smith, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Chicago Human Rhythm Project Director ( and Rhythm World organizer ) Lane Alexander. Classes are tiered for offerings for everyone from nine-year-old novices to working professionals. On Sunday, Aug. 2, at 6:30 p.m., a free concert will take place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park featuring BAM!, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, Jus' LisTeN, the South Shore Drill Team, Chicago Tap Theatre and Be the Groove. The following evening, there's a free tap improvisation jam at the Cultural Center, Roosevelt University's Ganz Hall hosts a tap-slam competition and Cutting Contest improvisation tournament Tuesday, Aug. 4, and—on Thursday, Aug. 6, and Saturday, Aug. 8—the Museum of Contemporary Art's theater will be home to two performances, including many of the aforementioned master teachers, guest artists and tap ensembles.
—Jazz Dance World Festival is held at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, July 22-25. For program and ticketing information, visit www.jazzdanceworldcongress.org and www.harristheaterchicago.org .
—Rhythm World is held at multiple locations in downtown Chicago from July 27-Aug. 9. Visit www.chicagotap.org .
Also this month:
—The final program of this spring's Epiphany Dance Experiment is a focus on movement as performance art and features four intriguing practitioners of that approach: JulieAnn Graham, RTG Dance, Britt Posmer and Marissa Perel. It's at the Epiphany Episcopal Church, 201 S. Ashland, July 12 at 6 p.m.; the cost is $12 at the door.
—The Space/Movement Project, recently one of three finalists at The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2009, will premiere its latest work, Safety in Numbers, over two weekends at Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, 3035 N. Hoyne. Tracking ideas about community through local genealogies of six choreographers ( also dancers ) and three additional performers, this collective of young dancemakers is one to watch. Performances are July 16-17 and 23-24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at brownpapertickets.com; more information is at thespacemovementproject.org .
—Thodos Dance Chicago presents new works each year by members of its company and a guest choreographer. Having seen all of it in progress—I'm serving on the program's advisory panel—I can vouch for the accomplishment and incredible variety of its pieces. Performance are at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, July 17 18 at 8 p.m. and July 19 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 each, with discounts for students, seniors and children; see www.thodosdancechicago.org .
—Atalee Judy's Breakbone DanceCo. is a recipient of this year's prestigious Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Grant. Although much of her body of work has focused on sociopolitical and feminist issues, Judy is investigating much different territory with her upcoming premiere, Excavation of Remains. Born of a new collaborative approach, seven artists have originated an anthology of dances that reflect thoughts on death and near-death and, in some cases, process past true-life experiences with the end. Also at the Hamlin Park Fieldhouse, Excavation of Remains runs July 29-31 and Au. 5-7, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10-$15; see www.brownpapertickets.com or call 773-841-BONE. Also, visit www.breakbone.com .