Dance for Life Chicago Review – Dance is Alive and Well in Chicago

Nomi Dance Company performs excerpts from Kim, choreographed by Giordano Dance Chicago’s Joshua Blake Carter, director of Giordano II. This piece for 11 dancers centers on the experience of women. The two sections on the program, “A Losing Game” and “Begin Again,” exhibit challenges and, consequently, the overcoming of obstacles and strength that all women face and find in their lives
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Our Guest Reviewer is Judith Ann Calder

Now in its 27th year, Dance for Life Chicago returned to the Auditorium Theatre with a spectacular program that included Chicago’s premier dance companies – Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and The Joffrey Ballet – along with Hanna Brictson and Dancers, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Chicago Dance Crash, Nomi Dance Company, and Randy Duncan.


Proceeds from Dance for Life support the Dancers’ Fund, which provides financial assistance to dance professionals experiencing critical health issues that adversely affect their ability to work, plus annual contributions to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and advocacy organizations.

Randy Duncan is reviving his 2007 Dance for Life finale, this year as the program opener. ADROIT, with music by Doug Brush, gives the dancers an opportunity to express synchronicity and precision through contemporary ballet and African movement vocabulary.

This was my first opportunity to attend a Dance for Life performance. I noted there was a diverse, multi-generational audience, which is great to see because many people don’t have the opportunity to experience dance, with tickets for many professional dance companies being very expensive.

The Joffrey Ballet performs Body of Your Dreams, choreographed by Myles Thatcher. The ballet is a witty, inventive play on fitness crazes, but beneath the surface is a cautionary message that may be relevant to many of us living in today’s society. Jacob Ter Veldhuis’s music is interlaced with sound bytes from too-good-to-be-true fitness ads and infomercials promising that the next fitness phenomenon is “so easy!”. Photo: Cheryl Mann

This show was enhanced with beautiful photography from Todd Rosenberg and Alice Klock. The Camouflage-patterned costumes by Luis Razo in Randy Duncan’s Adroit added depth and context.

The lighting in Nomi’s pieces created a beautiful golden glow as backdrop for the very structured black and white suits.

Giordano Dance Chicago performs Tossed Around (2017), choreographed by Ray Mercer to music by Sbongiseni “Bongi” Duma. “I wanted to capture a feeling that exploits chaos,” said Mercer. “As human beings, I think we experience instances where we are emotionally, physically and spiritually tossed around. I wanted that experience to be reflected in the movement. Working closely with the composer [Duma], who is very familiar with my aesthetic, we came up with a work that complemented Giordano Dance Chicago’s movement style”
Unlike many pieces that incorporate chairs, rarely do they have movement and feature in choreography as they did in Gordiano’s piece.

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre performs Between Us, which choreographer Sherry Zunker and CRDT composer Joe Cerqua reimagine and re-conceptualize specifically for Dance for Life 2018. Between Us explores issues of intimacy and our closest personal relationships. On par with CRDT’s signature style of seamlessly blending dance and music, this performance features two live musicians on stage, interacting with the dancers and improvising within Cerqua’s music, which includes a bold jazz score and a world beat celebratory playfulness.
(Dan Kasberger Photo, Chicago)

The live musicians in Cerqua Rivera demonstrated that the subtle movement of a musician is as beautiful as a dancer’s.

Hanna Brictson and Dancers, comprising dancers who have been associated with Visceral Dance Chicago, perform My Darling, which, according to Brictson, was “created and inspired by all my fond memories of music and dance growing up as a young artist. I wanted to create a dance that leaves you inspired to find the simple pleasures in life. Emotion-filled, step-filled and a stage full of giving dancers was my vision…the power of the Chicago dance community coming together to feel the joy of dance, simply and purely, will be epic.”

The red costumes pulsing against a matching red background added to the excitement and wonderful synchronous choreography of Hanna Brictson’s piece.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Summer Series Tech, “The 40’s” by Lou Conte
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

If you are a looking for a new company to follow, or an alternative to the most expensive seats in town, the evening was a great opportunity to sample the highlights of the Chicago dance scene. Since I see a lot of ballet, I am planning on attending performances of all of the companies that participated this coming season. For young dancers it is a window into the breadth of opportunity to dance in Chicago.


PS – On a personal note, the evening had a certain poignancy for me. Lou Conte was honored and Claire Bataille was featured in the documentary. My daughter always takes class at Lou Conte’s studio when in Chicago, and the first ballet class she ever took was at Claire Bataille’s Chicago Ballet Arts School. Claire introduced herself to me one night at the school and told me that my 9 year-old daughter could become a professional ballerina, and she did. While I hope my daughter has a long and healthy career, I know only too well that dancers are very vulnerable to injury and rarely have the support they deserve. You can see my daughter on Instagram at



Dance for Life supports organizations and dance professionals facing critical health issues. Proceeds from Dance for Life benefit The Dancers’ Fund, which was established in response to the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the dance community, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. The Dancers’ Fund now offers assistance in, but is not limited to, health matters, housing, utilities, insurance, medication and travel. As a unifier of Chicago’s dance community, Dance for Life supports a thriving dance community by focusing on its health and well-being through The Dancers’ Fund.


Dance for Life Chicago 2018 is supported, in part, by Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Hilton Chicago, Barbara Levy Kipper, MB Financial Bank, Peoples Gas, Holistic Health Practice, HMS Media, Paterno Group, Bell Litho Inc., Athletico, Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago/Lou Conte Dance Studio. Special thanks to Dance for Life Chicago 2018’s Producers and Dance Captains.

All Photos: Courtesy of Dance for Life




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