Chicago Dancing Festival Gets Backing From Rahm, Expanded Programming

By Jenny Berg August 26, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

Photo: Cheryl Mann

Chicago Dancing Festival Opening Night Gala
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The Chicago Dancing Festival, which offers six days of free performances and programming, kicked off Monday night with a 250-guest gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a famous dance enthusiast—and, rather surprisingly, a former ballet dancer himself—acted as the soiree's honorary chair and delivered a few remarks before a performance of duets from five companies.

According to festival co-producer Jay Franke, the mayor's support has “greatly” enhanced the event's reputation. “His vision for dance in Chicago is very aligned with ours,” Franke said. “We are both hoping to make Chicago an international dance destination.”

At five years old, the festival has seen steady growth since its inception. “Our first year, we presented seven dance companies in a one-night-only performance,” Franke said. “This year, we are hosting 17 various dance companies in four venues, and all for free. We never thought, though we hoped, the festival would grow into a Chicago dance staple.”

In addition to the museum, dance performances took place throughout the week at the Harris Theater, the Auditorium Theater, and at the Pritzker Pavilion. “Our biggest addition was the Auditorium Theater, which has 3,800 seats,” Franke said. The Thursday night performance at the downtown venue drew a capacity crowd. 

Franke attributed the festival's rising success to “a growing audience base in the Chicago dance scene.” Plus, he said, “our ability to raise funds to keep the festival free adds accessibility to the art form.” Event organizers solicit funds from foundations and corporations, but “we rely most heavily on individual contributions,” Franke said.

As for the future of the festival, “we hope to continue to present this ... extraordinary dancing for free to Chicago,” Franke said. “We want to continue to make this city come alive with dance, attract an international audience base, and make Chicago the dance destination.”

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