Imagine sitting down in the park on your lunch break about to dig into your sandwich when suddenly you notice movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn to see a dancer jeté through the air, another turning in time to the music. During Chicago Dance Month this April, presented by Audience Architects, be prepared for surprise acts of dance.
This is the fifth Chicago Dance Month, a month-long celebration of Chicago’s diverse dance scene.
“We are thrilled to be putting together the fifth year,” said Heather Hartley, Audience Architects Executive Director. “What really is a unique thing about Dance Month is it really is an opportunity for audiences to experience companies of all sizes and various genres.”
Chicago Dance Month consists of more than 60 events ranging from traditional theater performances, to open rehearsals, to dance classes, to conversations. There is also a series of pop-up dance performances in community spaces throughout the city.
Hartley said that during these events, people are going about their daily lives when all of the sudden there is “this free, amazing dance thing going on. It makes them sort of pause and stop and go ‘oh wow, what is this?’”
Chicago Dance Month kicks off April 3 with a free event at Navy Pier. The event features performances by four companies and conversation with two dance captains from the cast of Hamilton.
Chicago Dance Month began five years ago as the idea of the Audience Architects board of directors, who were looking for a way to push their mission further.
“Our mission is to build and engage dance audiences,” Hartley said. “We wanted to do something that would really sort of elevate Chicagoans having an understanding of how much varied and absolutely fabulous dance there is in Chicago.”
In addition to Chicago Dance Month, Audience Architects hosts SeeChicagoDance.com, a website where more than 200 dance organizations post performances, classes, and events, and Moving Dialogs, a discussion series.
Historically, National Dance Week took place during April, so the group decided they would fold dance week into a broader dance month, adapting the model to make it specific to Chicago.
Any dance group can opt in to participating in Chicago Dance Month, whether through offering discounted performance tickets or hosting an open rehearsal. Audience Architects work in partnership with groups and venues throughout Chicago, such as the Chicago Parks District, to secure spaces for their events and performances.
“We’re sort of the little engine that could,” said Hartley.
Over the past five years, the popularity and recognition of Chicago Dance Month has continued to grow. Audiences wait for the month to roll around and dance companies bring their A game to community performances. Last year, Audience Architects held performances during rush hour each Friday in Pritzker Park. By the fourth Friday, people started showing up with their lawn chairs and coolers in anticipation of the show.
Hartley said one of the best things about Chicago Dance Month is opening the door to dance for those who might not naturally be drawn to a show, especially by hosting events in public spaces during times of heavy foot traffic. She said there really is no wrong way to interpret dance, and dance month gives people an opportunity to open themselves up to dance.
“[Dance is] something people have a harder time feeling like they’re getting it. With a piece of theater, you have narrative, you have a story line…in dance sometimes people get a little intimidated,“ she said. “I hope that what this process does allows people to trust themselves and see dance as an invitation.”
For an entire list of Chicago Dance Month events, visit SeeChicagoDance.com.