See Chicago Dance ( SCD ) will celebrate a banner year at its 2018 annual gala. Among other unprecedented changes under the spotlight at the September 25 event: SCD will honor not one but two dance-world luminaries and celebrate a new name.
Founded in 2008 as Audience Architects, See Chicago Dance is in the midst of a massive rebranding effort aimed at redefining its place in the local dance firmament.
For years, SCD has honored a single artist at its annual gala. This year, it's doubling down on that effort. Mordine and Company Dance Theater founder Shirley Mordine will receive the Legacy Award, bestowed on a dance pioneer at the apex of their career from the arts-side of the business. In addition, Field Foundation of Illinois President Angelique Power will receive the Distinguished Service to the Dance Field Award, given to a mover-and-shaker from the business-side of the art.
The wizards behind the curtain
SCD's name change ( it was founded in 2008 as Audience Architects ) is indicative of significant changes both internal and external. Roughly 300-plus dance organizations in the greater Chicago area take advantage of SCD's workshops, training sessions and consulting services. In addition, SCD offers its 90 member companies help with marketing and media planning. SCD is also in the info business, rolling out a dance news e-blast sent to 12,000 subscribers.
"In this year we have undergone a brand and an identity refresh," SCD Executive Director Heather Hartley told Windy City Times. "The initial thought 14 years ago was that the organization might also eventually build audiences for other art forms [as well as dance]. As the organization grew and evolved, it became clear that dance was our primary focus, and that dance needed a more robust service organization beyond just the website.
"We simplified everything under the one brand of See Chicago Dance," Hartley said. "We did a website redesign that launched in late March to help us kick off our annual celebration of Chicago dance month ( which takes place ) every April. I think that the value is not only internal to our organization, but for the public.
"It's much clearer that we're the non-profit behind the scenes. Before, we were sort of hidden, we were the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain," she said.
Making ( tidal ) waves
SCD's vetting process for its coveted annual awards took a new turn this year when its members decided to honor both Mordine and Power. In determining the honorees, SCD gathered feedback from the community throughout the year. A 15-member board narrowed down their list of potential honorees and then chose the winners.
Mordine began her training in San Francisco with the San Francisco Ballet School. She caused a tidal wave of change across the country in 1969 when she founded the Chicago-based Dance Center of Columbia College.
"She has a tremendous mentoring ability, and she has done that for thousands of students throughout her career," Hartley said. "Many of them went on to form their own companies or create their own choreographic works. If you look at Shirley's family tree, [the leadership at] several of the companies that are making important dance work were trained by Shirley.
"The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago has presented regional, national, and world-renowned artists for 40-plus years.
"Mordine had the vision to see students needed to actually meet and work with visiting artists. She really revolutionized the training by bringing artists into an academic program. No one had done this before. Now that's a common practice."
Multi-million dollar power player
Power was born and raised in Chicago, the daughter of a Chicago police officer and a Chicago public school teacher, "I have a deep and intense love for this complicated city," she said. "Deeply scarred, dazzlingly innovative and fiercely scrappy, Chicago has always held an electricity that pulses beneath the streets, compelling us to do more, to work harder, to think more creatively, to do all we can to solve its pressing issues," Power has said.
Power's journey began at Marshall Field's, where she worked in Community Relations while putting herself through graduate school at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
"My connection to the dance community was both as a student in the arts with friends who were dancers trying to make their way, as well as learning about philanthropy from a corporate perspective, an organization that gave grants to the arts. Pretty early on I learned about the robust philanthropic, and the dance community in Chicago, and how they collaborate to make Chicago this incubator for ideas and for dance and for unique expression," Power said.
Power now oversees the charitable distribution of more than $2.5 million dollars at the Field Foundation. "At the Field Foundation we're really interested in supporting art in all its forms, whether that's individual artists, non-profit organizations, collectives of dancers, for-profit organizations. Whether it's ballet, hiplet, footwork, hip hop, there is a tremendous amount of energy in Chicago's dance community, and we're looking to find it and fund," she said.
"Angelique is hitting the ground running, she is absolutely in the glorious sort of hit-the-gas-pedal time in her career," Hartley said. "I think the committee was interested in honoring someone who is really a change agent. ( Powers ) completely changed the Field Foundation's guidelines on how they give, opening up a pathway for funding that is much more equitable, creating greater access to grant dollars for organizations of color.
"She co-founded Enrich Chicago, a consortium of organizations that look at equity, diversity and inclusivity across many spectrums including race, gender, neighborhood, budget size, specifically in the arts. It's so exciting to see a talented, powerful female African-American woman making such a huge difference," Hartley said.
All that jazz
In addition to the accolades, this year's gala promises performances on video, and a booty-pulsing time for dancers and patrons alike. "I can tell you that when the Chicago dance community comes together at the dance floor it is quite a scene," Hartley said. "It's a wonderful mix of dance lovers, dance administrators, donors, and the artists themselves, so you have a room with 250, 260 people that when it all comes together it's just electric.
"The dance floor, I promise you, is a hopping spot."
See Chicago Dance's Fourth Annual Gala is Tuesday, Sept. 25, 6-10 p.m., at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St. Tickets are $250 each; visit seechicagodance.com/event/2018-see-chicago-dance-gala.