This weekend marks the 26th annual Dance for Life Chicago, a celebration of dance and fundraiser for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and The Dancers’ Fund. While difficult to compete with last year’s celebratory quarter-century milestone performance, Phil Reynolds, Executive Director of Chicago Dancers United, expects an exciting, engaging, and successful year for Dance for Life.
“I think one of the biggest challenges, honestly, is to maintain and continue the momentum coming off of 25,” he said.
However, he believes the program Chicago Dancers United, which works to support Chicago’s dance community and hosts the show, put together will keep audiences engaged and entertained. This year’s event keeps the basic framework intact—performances by the Joffrey Ballet, Giordano Dance Chicago, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago sprinkled with new pieces, companies, and ideas.
“There is a core group of companies, and then we try to introduce new choreographic voices and dance companies from Chicago each year,” he said. “It’s going to be a great program.”
Over the years, Dance for Life Chicago has grown and evolved, building itself into a fundraiser hosting nearly 2,500 audience members.
“This was something that was started at the Organic Theatre by Keith Elliot,” Reynolds said of the inaugural event started by Chicago dancer Elliot, who had lost a number of friends and colleagues to HIV and AIDS. “As attendance increased, it moved to different venues around the city…it kept selling out.”
A few years ago, Dance for Life landed at the Auditorium Theatre, where it has been ever since.
The goal of the event is to showcase the depth and breadth of Chicago dance talent while raising money for a worthwhile cause. The Dancers’ Fund provides financial assistance to dance community members in Chicago dealing with health and other life issues. Dance for Life Chicago is a way for the dance community to rally together, showing support for one another and for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Since 1992, the program has raised $5.5 million.
“I hope [the audience] comes away with an understanding of what the core concept of Dance for Life is, which is this benefit concert to raise money and then grant it out to organizations that are working the in HIV/AIDS arena,” Reynolds said. “I [also] think it’s important for people to understand and have more awareness about Chicago Dancers United Dancers’ Fund, which is ultimately fed be proceeds form Dance for Life.”
He said the Dancers’ Fund provides financial support to all members of the dance community, including dancers, choreographers, lighting designers, costumers, and more. It helps those dealing with a serious life or health issue that requires a small grant to get through the problem, whether it’s helping paying for a couple of medical appointments or dealing with a difficult landlord.
Beyond understanding the charitable aspects of the evening, Reynolds said he hopes the audience enjoys the performances and the experience of sharing the show with other audience members inside the grandeur of the Auditorium Theatre.
“It’s one of the major events in the dance season here in Chicago,” Reynolds said. “People expect it, they know it, they plan around it.”
Dance for Life begins with a gala at the Hilton Chicago at 5 p.m. August 19, followed by a 7:30 p.m. performance at the Auditorium Theatre. For more information, visit chicagodancersunited.org.