Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-09-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Dance for Life continues to celebrate life, honoring those who have passed
by Aaron Hunt

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

In the darkest days of the 1980s, Chicago's dance community was gamely pirouetting through a Giselle-mist insufficiently shrouding the HIV/AIDS tragedy, dancers involuntarily reaching for partners who could never lift them again. There was no ignoring the unrestful spirits brushing past in the corridors, no shutting out dreams of dances that would never spring from soul-to-stage. The dust of the fallen co-mingled with the rosin glimmering on every dance floor.

But as a tide of protest against a studied, willful governmental ignorance washed over the pointed toes of artists, Chicago's dance community clasped hands and voted with their bodies. With a goal of raising money for for HIV/AIDS education and care for those struggling to pay for treatment, dancers Keith Elliott, Harriet Ross and Todd Kiech began the conversation that would become Dance For Life.

This year's Dance for Life ( DFL ) is Aug. 18, beginning with a 5 p.m. gala at Chicago's Hilton, and continuing with a 7:30 p.m. performance at the Auditorium Theatre. In addition to being a fund-raiser, the annual event is a showcase of artists who are trained not to be at contest with each other, but rather to fight their own bodies, making them better today than the story the mirror told them yesterday.

Going rogue

Keith Elliott and Harriet Ross were both with Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre when they launched Dance for Life in 1992—roughly seven years after their company's namesake and founder died of AIDS-related causes. They were joined by Todd Kiech, then something of a "rogue ballerina," and a dancer/choreographer known for innovative works that defied tidy categorization. Their efforts yielded the first DFL in 1992, when AIDS was seen as a death sentence and resources for the afflicted were few. The mainstream press was treating the pandemic as a joke. Under Ronald Reagan, the White House never so much as acknowledged the plague's existence.

Over the past 26 years, DFL has raised more than $5.5 million, partnering with companies clouding Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the Joffrey Ballet. The annual concert is now one of the city's most glittering social events, replete with star-studded, pre-show gala.

This year's DFL features artists from Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Joffrey Ballet, Hanna Brictson and Dancers, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Chicago Dance Crash and Nomi Dance Company as well as a finale by internationally lauded acclaimed choreographer Randy Duncan. Beneficiaries are the Dancers' Fund and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Begin again: Mothers, sons and rebirth

Each year, newer companies apply to spice the DFL punch with their kinetic storytelling and picture-painting. This year, Nomi Dance Chicago earned a coveted first-time slot. Nomi's style is eclectic and accessible, their company ethic firmly collaborative. That aesthetic explains much about how their DFL piece "Begin Again" ( by Joshua Blake Carter ) came to the evening's program.

"[Carter] reached out to me in 2014; he was setting out as a young choreographer," Nomi's artistic director Laura Kariotis said. "I had heard good things about him, great stuff about his classwork and certainly [I] had seen him perform and loved his beauty onstage. He sent me video of a couple of pieces of his work and I said, 'Yes, let's do it!" There was an instant rapport with him and the company and the two of us and I thought, 'this doesn't always happen.' There was an incredibly positive energy."

For Carter, "Begin Again" was deeply personal.

"[M]y parents were getting a divorce after 33 years of marriage and my mom was on this new path, this new, renewed life for her," Carter said. "In the midst of the piece I turned off the music and I said to the dancers, 'We're creating a piece about my mom.' I think we've created a piece about her journey and a women's journey, the journey of my mom working hard and still coming home and cooking every night.

"I remember being a kid and my parents separating and then getting back together. I saw this struggle she went through my entire life, and then I saw a moving picture of a woman who had taken her life back," Carter said. "For me it was really a personal statement of love for my mother, but also a reflection on women and women's rights in our country."

The 27-minute piece is "grueling and challenging but perfect," said Kariotis. "It [is] a great celebration of the company and of women, and which is just so �ppropos of what's going on in today's culture."

Welcome to the jumble

This year's DFL also includes Duncan's "Adroit." Duncan was onboard with DFL from the start, taking leadership of Joseph Holmes Dance after Holmes died in 1986. His work with DFL made his see another opportunity for Chicago's dancers.

"I thought to myself, wow, it would really be something if we had a dancer from each of those companies get together and do a creative piece as the [DFL] finale," he said. Organizers loved the idea. Duncan began tapping dancers from each company to help create a spectacular closer for the concert.

"It really pulls those dancers who are used to doing the contemporary modern or classical ballet to a different sort of style," Duncan said. "It's spell-binding to watch them cheering each other on. Even though they didn't know each other before, it's become this family atmosphere. It's infectious."

As we tiptoe through a time when HIV/AIDS is not necessarily a death sentence, Dance For Life funds are being donated to other areas of need. There s no shortage of them: This Is a community where any injury can put one of its family on the sidelines with no income and overwhelming emotional stress. Still, DFL remembers its roots. Even as the Duncan and Carter pieces celebrate rather than grieve, today's DFL dancemakers move through a singular jumble of feelings, a fingertip's breath away from those missing and mourned.

For more on Dance for Life, visit

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

See Chicago Dance gala Sept. 25 2018-09-19 - See Chicago Dance ( SCD )—the dance industry's nonprofit marketing and advocacy organization—will host its fourth annual gala Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6 -10 ...

Gay News

TV Choreographer-dancer Travis Wall on 'Dance' series, being out 2018-08-28 - It's hard to believe that the Fox show So You Think You Can Dance is about to end its 15th season. Travis Wall ...

Gay News

Auditorium hosts 27th annual Dance for Life 2018-08-19 - For its 27th annual event, Dance for Life Chicago presented a diverse group of companies and artists performing Aug. 18, at the Auditorium ...

Gay News

DANCE Revolutionary steps, dancers point past the binary 2018-07-25 - Chicago is not lacking queer spaces in the arts, and that includes dance and performance art. Now in its ninth season, the ...

Gay News

Joel Hall's new leader Jacqueline Sinclair takes steps to continue the work 2018-07-04 - "I'm house-hunting today!" Jacqueline Sinclair giggled to Windy City Times over the phone. She's not your average house hunter. The newly named Artistic ...

Gay News

Dance for Life 2018 names companies 2018-06-20 - For its 27th annual event, Dance for Life Chicago presents a diverse group of companies and artists performing Saturday, Aug. 18, at the ...

Gay News

DIFFA/Chicago marks 30th anniversary 2018-06-14 - Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS ( DIFFA )/Chicago marked its 30th anniversary June 9 with a gala, "DIFFA XXX," at the Modern Wing ...

Gay News

Back Lot Bash, fifteen years and still going strong 2018-06-12 - Despite having full-time jobs, the dynamic duo of Amie Klujian and Christina Wiesmore-Roberts have put on the famed lesbian-focused yet all-inclusive Back Lot ...

Gay News

National Museum of Mexican Art hosts annual queer prom 2018-06-06 - On June 1, The National Museum of Mexican Art presented its 13th annual gay prom. The event, in Pilsen, attracted students from all ...

Gay News

DANCIN' FEATS Nora Sharp on their work, 'Small Boobs' 2018-05-30 - "Sometimes I'm just sitting in the barber shop reading GQ Magazine and I'm really into it," said Nora Sharp in a recent interview ...


Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.