Chicago: Dancing Through April

April, typically hallmarked by the return of warmer weather, baseball, and “Game of Thrones,” carries another meaning for the Windy City. It’s a time to celebrate Chicago’s talented and diverse dance community in a way that many may never have experienced. For the entire month, Chicagoans can find popup performances and discounted dance classes appearing throughout the city. It’s all part of a 30-day festival known as “Chicago Dance Month.”


Heather Hartley, the Executive Director of See Chicago Dance, noted that since the festival’s inception in 2012, it’s grown into a beloved tradition. Now on the seventh year, “Chicago Dance Month” offered over 70 various events all working toward a common goal: greater awareness, inclusion, and communication both within Chicago’s dance community and with the greater population of the city.


Throughout April, many different dance organizations put on events, performances, or classes in celebration. At many of the events, See Chicago Dance worked with the venues and performers to offer discounted ticket prices, in the hopes that people might come and try something new this April.


The first event of the festival, the “Kickoff Celebration”, was held on April 1 at the Chicago Cultural Center. It was an hour long performance featuring several difference groups, and was attended by nearly 400 people.


While most events are held in large and visible spaces, there are a few in more intimate venues, as well as some more non-conventional ones. It’s all in an effort to bring the performances to every corner of the city, and to appeal to as many people as possible.


One of the weekly events, Open Studio Tuesdays, happening all throughout April; Photo courtesy of Philamonjaro


See Chicago Dance was originally formed as a website to provide audience building and bolster ticket sales in Chicago. Today, with visibility reaching far beyond the website, it works to let people encounter dance in a vibrant, holistic manner. Chicago’s own dance community has traditionally been varied across a broad spectrum, including genres and ethnicities, and See Chicago Dance has worked to empower and uplift that diversity.


“Over 600 organizations have a login account on our website, which is a pretty big number,” said Hartley. During Chicago Dance Month, a long list of dance styles is represented. This year, 18 different genres of dance were showcased during the festival, which Hartley says is reflective of the city itself.


“Chicago is a complex, robust, diverse, and beautiful place.” She said. “In order to represent an art form that is celebrated and practiced all over the world, it’s important to highlight that same diversity that is in our city. Dance is a universal language!”


Free physical screenings were part of the offered services during the Day of Dancer Health; Photo courtesy of Philamonjaro


Chicago Dance Month is, at its core, about bringing the community together. When it began in 2012, the idea was to elevate and advocate for the field of dance. To bring dance into the daily lives of Chicagoans. It also encourages different artists and companies to work together in a capacity that may not have happened before, or to create new partnerships.


“We’ve learned that we need to get the dance community excited and bring people together, so the dancers themselves need to have ownership of it,” said Hartley. “Our logo is out there, but it’s really about the dance community and our intention is to put the spotlight on them.”


And the festival isn’t just about performances for the public. Throughout the month, bonds between the artists of the city are strengthened as well. On April 22, See Chicago Dance hosted a new event called the “Day of Dancer Health.” Industry professionals were invited to come in for free physical and mental health screenings, local health referrals, and nutritional assessments. To See Chicago Dance, such a day is important because the festival is about empowering the entire dance community, which includes the artists themselves.


As the festival winds down for 2019, the people at See Chicago Dance will start to plan next year’s activities in just a few short months. Hartley noted that she hopes the event will not only continue to grow in participation, but also neighborhood reach, so that all Chicagoans can join in the experience.


“If we can encourage that in April,” she said, “Then the best possible outcome will be, ‘Hey, I liked that so much, I’m going to go back next month!’”

There are a few more activities scheduled for the last few days of April, including the final event on April 30: a “Dance Scavenger Hunt Along the Chicago Riverwalk.” Beginning at 4:30 and free to the public, this family-friendly event will include site-specific performances and feature eight groups. To check out this event, as well as See Chicago Dance’s website, click here.