Dozens of new Chicago dance companies have exploded onto the stage with dance styles that incorporate everything from acrobats to literary interpretation. Chicago stand-bys like Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago are putting their skill and expertise behind cutting-edge choreography. Since their 1995 move to Chicago, the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet has brought some of the best talent on toe shoes in the country to the Windy City. Chicago dance is bursting in all directions; it looks back to recognize traditional styles of dance and ahead to the new and the fresh.
"It's just been erupting," says Frank Chaves, artistic director of River North Chicago Dance Company, a nearly 20-year-old contemporary jazz company. Chaves looks all over the country for new choreographers, but still believes Chicago has the best. There is a buzz about dance in Chicago, he says. Not as vast as New York City, Chicago is close-knit: "We function as one big community."
Other cities have more established dance circuits, but Chicago is up and coming, says Ashley Wheater, the Joffrey Ballet's artistic director. "There's a surge moving in a really exciting way," he says.
Chicago has it all--contemporary dance, international dance, jazz dance, ballet--the list goes on and on. And the community supports it, Wheater says. "People are excited to see the huge diversity of companies."
Not only diverse in types of dance, Chicago offers many ways to see this supple art form. Check out our "Chicago Dance: Where to See It" guide for some of Chicago's top dance venues. Spring is the peak season to see the city's companies in performance. Most pick a weekend and perform evening and matinee performances; some companies also put together fall concerts.
The Chicago dance holiday favorite, 'The Nutcracker,' highlights the winter dance season. Chicago offers a variety of performances by professional companies and dance schools in the area. The Joffrey's version at the Auditorium Theater still features choreography of the company's founders, Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. But, not for long. Wheater says the more-than-20-year-old production is due for a revamp within the next four years. "Hopefully, it will have a lot more magic," he says.
The summer dance season brings a smattering of outdoor performances and festivals. Ravinia Festival, a permanent open-air theater a short train-ride from downtown, hosts dance companies spread between their usual line-up of musical performances. Millennium Park's outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the indoors-situated Harris Theater feature all types of dance, from touring African dance troupes to the Joffrey Ballet, and offers prices to fit all budgets. The Harold Washington Library hosts free concerts, on occasion, over weekday lunch hours.
To see all types of Chicago dance in one stop, see the Chicago Dancing Festival in August. The three-day event features two concerts: a celebration of top-20th century choreographers and a free outdoor concert at Millennium Park featuring companies from across the country.
From the contemporary choreography of Thodos Dance Chicago--the company uses props and gymnastic skills to stamp their work--to the flamenco skirts of Ensemble Espanol's dancers, Chicago offers dance to suit everyone's beat.