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 2018-11-14
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Joel Hall: An icon looks back at career
by Aaron Hunt
2018-07-04

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


The desecrated cow town that pushed its charred carcass toward the water and created one of the world's most glittering lakefronts has always been a city populated by scrappers—and Joel Hall is no exception. Stepping down this summer after more than 40 years at the head of his eponymous dance company, Hall has forged his legacy the Chicago way: Using the raw materials at hand and telling his own stories his own way.

Hall announced his retirement as artistic director and head choreographer from the dance company that shares his name earlier this summer. The news marked the end of an era for Chicago dance.

Young, Black, gay and gifted

Hall's legacy is undisputed: Joel Hall Dancers—including a school company, a pre-professional company, and the professional company—has debuted more than 70 new works and collaborations over the years including such memorable pieces as Night Walker," "El Gato Negro" and "Y2Day."

Joseph "Joel" Hall grew up Black, gay, and uneasy in a working-class neighborhood in the 1960s, a whisper away from the Cabrini Green housing project. But a passion for dance—intensified by a four-year stint as a detainee of the Illinois Youth Commission so he could, "learn not to be a homosexual," set him on an artistic trajectory that spanned five decades.

In his groundbreaking work as a choreographer and a performer, Hall proved that there was ( and is ) a place for a style of jazz dancing that didn't deny its ethnic or social roots.

This is how we communicate'

"In Africa dance has a functional role in death, birth, marriage, harvesting, in all those natural things that happen," Hall said in a lengthy interview with the Windy City Times. "( S )o it was very natural for me to do 'street dance' because that was very much a part of my culture," Hall said. Hall used his culture to reshape dance culture, creating a method of jazz dance that mixes in elements of ballet, jazz, modern, funk and "street."

"Street dance refers to the dance of the people," said Jacqueline Sinclair, Hall's long-time collaborator and the newly anointed artistic director of the company ( see related story. ) "It is our way of saying vernacular dance, but with our context added to it. This is how we communicate together in the world and then we add this to the stage."

Intersecting activism and art

Hall, 69, began his training in classical dance in Chicago in 1968, before moving to New York in 1969 for a stint in the trail-blazing modern dance world of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Collective wisdom has it that no matter how great your talent and technique, you can't truly create as an artist until you've endured something truly momentous. Hall found his momentum in New York City, a bonfire of activism as the LGBTQ community began to organize and demand its agency. When he wasn't dancing, Hall worked with the Lower East Side's Fire House, a community center for gays and lesbians.

When returned to Chicago, his dance bag was brimming with stories to tell. He quickly found the intersection between dance and activism. Throughout his career, Hall has spoken about combining the two, and using his art as a means to address social justice issues.

Going global

Founded as the dance arm of the Chicago City Theatre company in 1974, the Joel Hall Dancers quickly gained a foothold in both Chicago and New York. During the 1980s and '90s, the troupe concertized extensively throughout Europe.

"We were the premiere company coming out of Chicago that was able to do this, so every year we would have one or two seasons in Europe," said Hall. "I was able to take young dancers who never thought they would be able to travel outside the United States or travel outside of Chicago really, to places in the world that were very different, culturally. It was a wonderful experience to be very much accepted by those communities."

Trials by fire

It was an experience that Hall couldn't have imagined when he was locked up at 14 by a judge determined to "correct" his homosexuality. Hall remained in juvenile detention at the hands of the Illinois Youth Commission for four years, after numerous attempts to run away from home. Predictably, the imprisonment had no impact on his sexual orientation. Hall came out at 17.

Keeping Joel Hall Dancers thriving wasn't always easy. The company's studio was struck by lightning in 1993. A jazz class fled the building before it burned to the ground, taking all the company's props, scenery, costumes office equipment with it.

"The lightning struck down the chimney and ignited basement photography darkroom and its contents. The studio, above the darkroom, was a wooden loft with heavy beams and it went up fast," Sinclair said.

"It happened in the middle of Joel's 6:30 p.m. pro level jazz class. Everyone ran from the studio, grabbing Civic ( our studio cat ) and stood in the rain.

"The storm scared Civic and he ran back in the studio. That day we lost Civic and all the contents of the studio including costumes, props, music and office equipment," Sinclair said.

Undaunted, Hall debuted his ballet Nuts & Bolts in 1994, which quickly became a holiday staple in Chicago, and is coming back into the company's repertoire this year.

Ensuring the legacy

In true Chicago style, the company remains vibrant, safely housed at 5965 N. Clark St., for now. Sinclair is pounding the pavement, searching for what will be the company's next ( and hopefully forever ) home.

Meanwhile, Hall isn't slowing down. He's diversifying. "I'm planning to do more and not less, but I'm planning to do it in a different way and I have to have someone ( Sinclair ) to step in that I trust to be able to do that," he said.

With Sinclair at his side, Hall has already begun the work of codifying his signature method, from the building blocks of the vocabulary to a technique that can be taught in certification programs that will give it continuance.

And he's only just begun to teach; He's writing a book. As a survivor of a generation of artists wiped out by AIDS, Joel Hall is uniquely poised to write one of the history books to which the youngest generation so desperately needs access, before the fiery backlash against our newly attained rights and privileges engulfs us all.

For more information about the Joel Hall Dancers, go to JoelHall.org .


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.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Chicago Dramatists has leadership changes 2018-11-14 - Chicago Dramatists announced it has accepted the resignation of Executive Director Vanessa Bamber. Bamber will continue in her position until Dec. 31, according ...


Gay News

Sophia Petrillo Italian Dinner and Talent Show to benefit Hell in a Handbag 2018-11-14 - CHICAGO ( November 13, 2018 ) — Join Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia for Hell in a Handbag Productions' annual benefit, The Sophia ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Battling Trump via art, an actor's superpower 2018-11-14 - Let's acknowledge one thing, after two years of misery: Our president is not stupid. He is not an idiot or moron. In ...


Gay News

YEPP's 'Rise Up' taking place Nov. 14 2018-11-14 - In recognition of the Transgender Day of Remembrance/Resilience and Youth Homelessness Awareness Month, Youth Empowerment Performance Project ( YEPP ) will host "Rise ...


Gay News

Ike Holter: The 'Right(lynd)' stuff 2018-11-14 - Last week's midterm elections taught us that political engagement is more crucial than ever. This makes Ike Holter's Rightlynd—opening this week at ...


Gay News

'Santuario' readings Nov. 16-18 at Piven 2018-11-13 - Evanston's Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes St., will present a staged reading of Santuario/Sanctuary on Nov. 16-18. Santuario/Sanctuary is a bilingual documentary theater ...


Gay News

Intersectional team creates change in 'The Revolutionists 2018-11-13 - The Revolutionists, opening at Strawdog Theatre in mid-November, may center on the concerns of 18th-century women during the Reign of Terror, but Lauren ...


Gay News

'TransScripts' brings lives of transgender women into the light 2018-11-13 - In the shadow of President Trump's alleged memo that seeks to define them out of existence by declaring that gender is immutable from ...


Gay News

This Bitter Earth 2018-11-13 - Author: Harrison David Rivers At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: TheaterWit.org; $20-$38. Runs through: Dec. 8 In bringing This ...


Gay News

Cosmologies 2018-11-13 - By: David Rabe At: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets: TheGiftTheatre.org; $35-$50. Runs through: Dec. 9 Cosmologies, now in ...


 



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.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

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.