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Chicago performers 'Dance for Life' in annual showcase
by Joshua Irvine

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Patrons of the arts gathered Aug. 17 in the South Loop for the 28th Dance for Life benefit performance.

Dancers from six different organizations, including regulars Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet, showcased a variety of talent throughout Chicago Dancers United's 90-minute performance. The annual showcase, held in the Auditorium Theater, raises funds for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago; The Dancers Fund, which provides assistance to members of Chicago's dance community facing health issues; and several other AIDS treatment and advocacy organizations.

Opening the evening was Giordano Dance Chicago's "Soul," with performers grooving to hits from the titular genre like Tina Turner's "Proud Mary" before co-chairs Tom and Mark Ferguson Gomez took the stage.

"I felt like we had a nice, well-rounded [show]," Mark said at a gala following the performance. "We had flamenco, we had ballet, we had tap, we had jazz, everything that you could want.

Tom said this year's showcase, the second of four the duo plan to chair, received more than 30 submissions from various dance companies.

After the Ferguson Gomezes left the stage, Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Stone Soup Rhythms offered a brief tap performance set to "Movement 11," coordinating feet to the jazz electronica piece.

The heart of the evening could be found in an homage to Hubbard Street Dance founding member Claire Bataille, who passed last December after a battle with pancreatic cancer. The performance—based off a solo arranged by Bataille and former Hubbard Street Dance choreographer Robyn Minneko Williams prior to the former's diagnosis—featured a montage of images of Bataille's career followed by a three-woman performance that paid homage to the famed performer in both appearance and movement.

Chicago Dance United Board President Robert Neubert and newly appointed Executive Director Keisha Pate announced an extension of the existing collaboration between The Dancers' Fund and the AIDS Foundation to include the American Cancer Society.

Pate said the American Cancer Society would help The Dancers Fund and the AIDS Foundation boost fundraising efforts.

"It's a wonderful strategic partnership for us that's gonna expand what we can do with The Dancers Fund," Pate said.

American Cancer Society Executive Director Peter Steele, who also appeared on stage with Pate, agreed.

"It's a very organic tie," Steele said. "We're gonna bring the national brand of ACS to really become a powerhouse for both of these really local organizations."

The announcement was followed by two separate performances from the Joffrey Ballet; Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater's homage to its own founder, Dame Libby Komaiko; a breakdance showcase from Chicago Dance Crash; and an elaborate work of performance art from Hubbard Street Dance.

The evening closed with an original finale choreographed by Randy Duncan and featured performers from many of the previous performances as well as outside dancers. Duncan, who has been involved with Dance for Life since its founding and has arranged the finale since 1994, used an original score created by Andy Mitran at Duncan's direction.

Duncan said he sought a "party atmosphere" with the finale, entitled "Release."

"Sometimes dancers can be a little solemn," Duncan said. "I wanted them to exhale and have a good time."

Dance for Life welcomed more than 3,100 guests and raised more than $300,000—both records.

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