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Dancing for Life
Windy City Times 30th anniversary issue
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times
2015-09-23

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All of the creative arts were devastated by AIDS, with a generation of stars struck down in their prime—never to write another opera or play, sing on another stage, play another piano or organ or paint another masterpiece. The dance world was particularly hard-hit, with many gay male choreographers and dancers lost to the disease.

In Chicago, one of the earliest losses was of Joseph Holmes, the head of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. Holmes left his mark on many who followed, including Randy Duncan, who took over the company after Holmes died, and dancer Keith Elliott.

Elliott nurtured the idea of an annual Dance for Life benefit, bringing together Chicago's top dance companies in a fundraiser for AIDS organizations and individual dancers. Like Season of Concern, which helps those in theater affected by AIDS, the Dance for Life Fund helps people meet their basic living requirements. The first Dance for Life was in June 1992 at the Organic Theatre.

Todd Kiech, Danny Kopelson, Harriet G. Ross, Gail Kalver and Duncan have all played critical roles in the Dance for Life annual gala, which is still operating. Duncan has been honored widely for his choreography, and Elliott has expanded his work to producing many benefits for gay and AIDS groups.

Joel Hall is another important part of Chicago's dance scene. A native Chicagoan, Hall co-founded Chicago City Theater Company in 1972 and, as part of that effort, created the Joel Hall Dancers and Joel Hall Dance Studios. Hall has an international reputation as a choreographer, and his company has toured the United States and other countries.


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