The mission and inspiration for Dance for Life is something that Giordano Dance Chicago holds in high regard. In fact, the Company has participated in every Dance for Life since the event’s founding 28 years ago.
A lot was happening in Chicago in 1991. Michael Jordan made his first NBA Finals appearance with the Chicago Bulls. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 100th anniversary. And it just so happens that it was the inaugural year of what would become one of the city’s most prominent dance events. That event was and is Dance for Life. For one night each year, Chicago Dancers United produces Dance for Life; a gala and performance that brings together a collection of the city’s talented and renowned dance companies, artists and choreographers in dazzling display of compassion, support and pure artistry. The proceeds benefit the Dancers’ Fund, which provides financial support to Chicago-area dance professionals facing critical health issues. The artists involved in Dance for Life donate their time and energy to create a program that has something to love for new and existing audience members alike.
This year’s performing companies include: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (an internationally acclaimed company of dancers performing the work of internationally acclaimed choreographer, Ohad Naharin), The Joffrey Ballet (four dancers in two duets that epitomize the elegance and drama of ballet), Chicago Dance Crash (a fusion of hip hop/contemporary/acrobatics that will literally transport you to another world), Ensemble Español (a flamenco contemporary ballet fueled by the love and passion the dancers feel for their late founder, Dame Libby Komaiko) and Chicago Human Rhythm Project (a collection of rhythms you’ll feel in your bones for days to come). The program will also feature an exclusive look at Echo Mine, choreographed by Robyn Mineko Williams, inspired by the late Claire Bataille (one of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s founding dancers, and choreographer/director of the Lou Conte Dance Studio). The evening closes with a finale choreographed by Randy Duncan, who celebrates his 25th year of creating the closing work.
There’s one more to add to the list above, and that’s Giordano Dance Chicago — a company of high energy, jazz dance masters performing to the music of Gladys Knight, Al Green and Tina Turner. The mission and inspiration for Dance for Life is something that Giordano Dance Chicago holds in high regard. In fact, the Company has participated in every Dance for Life since the event’s founding 28 years ago.
This year, Giordano Dance Chicago brings SOUL to Dance for Life, choreographed by Ray Leeper. DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera caught up with four of the company’s dancers for this 4PHOTOS to learn more about SOUL, as well as what makes Dance for Life so special for the professional dance community and dance-lovers alike. Here’s what GDC Dancers Ashley Downs, Jacob Frazier, Adam Houston and Katie Rafferty told us:
It is going to be so heartwarming to get to this moment in “SOUL”, be able to look over our left shoulders into the wings and see our fellow Chicago dance community hooting and hollering backstage!
“The company and I had the privilege of performing SOUL this past season and have found such strength, power and camaraderie on our journey with this piece. This particular moment in SOUL brings me so many wonderful feelings. It represents the strength and power of the entire company dancing and filling the stage with energy.
This upcoming Dance For Life will be my sixth time dancing in DFL with Giordano, and every year my favorite part of the show is the support, community and energy created back stage and in the wings from the amazing Chicago dance companies! It is going to be so heartwarming to get to this moment in SOUL, be able to look over our left shoulders into the wings and see our fellow Chicago dance community hooting and hollering backstage!
DFL is the best time of the year — a “New Year’s Eve” for our dance community, as it acts as a kick-off for most companies’ upcoming seasons. I cannot wait to celebrate another impactful year at DFL with my wonderful GDC family and our strong, passionate and ever-supportive dance community!” — Ashley Downs
Every connection, every smile and every glance leaves the audience knowing that we are connected in this journey together.
“Community, support, trust and celebration. These are the first things that come to my mind when thinking about Ray Leeper’s piece, SOUL. Support is a common thread throughout the piece, which comes naturally to the dancers because of the family-like atmosphere at Giordano. Every movement requires a sense of trust that Nan Giordano has engendered in each of her dancers, and it shows.
Every leap, lift, press, jump or throw feels harmonious knowing we will always be there for each other. SOUL is a powerful reflection of the Chicago Dance Community. As soon as the curtains come up, you can feel the energy building in each dancer. Every connection, every smile and every glance leaves the audience knowing that we are connected in this journey together.
Most importantly, SOUL is about celebration. Performing SOUL around the country this year has been pure joy. As a company, there is nothing more fulfilling than leaving the audience radiating with energy. In this world filled with so much pain and uncertainty, SOUL is a beacon of light that has the audience leaving the theater filled with hope and happiness.” — Jacob Frazier
The concert allows dancers in the community, dance supporters in the community, and dance enthusiasts to come together for one evening to support an art that they love and care about.
“Support is what makes the Chicago dance scene different than any other community. I have felt personal support from many people, all affiliated with different organizations by coming to watch me in shows or by being great friends. As an organization, Giordano Dance Chicago supports its community by attending other companies’ shows, fundraisers, special events and giving back to the greater Chicago community by doing outreach in Chicago Public Schools. Nan Giordano and Michael McStraw, Artistic Director and Executive Director of GDC, respectively, have been amazing role models as to what supporting our community looks like and have instilled that into the organization. It is a true honor and privilege for me to be a part of Giordano Dance Chicago and Dance for Life.
As a changing and challenging financial climate occurs, now more than ever, arts communities need to be supporters of one another. Dance for Life gives an outlet for that in the Chicago dance scene. Dancers from the community get to interact and perform with one another in Randy Duncan’s community piece; you get to watch, cheer and applaud other companies performing from the wings of the Auditorium Theatre; audience members and gala attendees get to support a non-profit organization, Chicago Dancers United. The concert allows dancers in the community, dance supporters in the community, and dance enthusiasts to come together for one evening to support an art that they love and care about.” — Adam Houston
These moments we share onstage represent only a small amount of the love and support we feel from one another.
“”If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This quote reminds me of all that Dance for Life and Giordano Dance Chicago represent; community, support and love. This moment in Ray Leeper’s SOUL would not be as special if we did not embrace these three ideals.
SOUL has been our concert closing piece this season. No matter how exhausted we are, this moment unites us and allows us to feed off each other’s energy to support one another until the end.
Working with Ray Leeper has always been such a positive experience, and that makes dancing his choreography that much more enjoyable. One of the coolest moments in this piece is when we are standing in position waiting for the curtain to rise. We can hear the audience cheer and clap in unison to the music. There is nothing better than the feeling of having the audience’s attention and encouragement before the dance even starts!
These moments we share onstage represent only a small amount of the love and support we feel from one another. I am forever grateful to be performing in my eighth Dance for Life, and to be a part of the incredible community of artists we have here in Chicago.” –Katie Rafferty
Dance for Life 2019 takes the stage Saturday, August 17 at 6pm at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E Ida B Wells Dr. Chicago, 60605). Tickets are available online at tickets.auditoriumtheatre.org.
For more information, visit chicagodancersunited.org.
PHOTO CREDITS: All photos courtesy of Giordano Dance Chicago featuring SOUL, Choreography by Ray Leeper • All Photos by Gorman Cook Photography