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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Dance for Life: Flying High
by Andrew Davis
2006-08-16

This article shared 2708 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
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Dance for Life , the largest performance-based benefit in the Midwest, will mark its 15th year of raising funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS on Aug. 26 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph. There will be everything from a light buffet reception to a terpsichorean display that will bring six of Chicago's best-known dance companies together, with the troupes performing individually and together ( the latter occurring in an eight-minute finale, choreographed by Randy Duncan, that is sure to impress ) .

The theme of this year's event is 'Flight 15,' and there are several reasons that motif was chosen, according to Dance for Life founder Keith Elliott. 'We're changing theaters [ and ] doing a whole different set-up for the gala. We're taking departures from things we used to do,' he told Windy City Times. 'The kickoff party was even held in Jet Vodka Lounge.'

The annual event arose from very humble beginnings, Elliott stated. 'It was about 15 years ago, and I was a struggling dancer making [ next to ] nothing at the company I was with, but I had a great career,' he said. 'We had summers off, and I hate being bored. I wanted to put up some of my own works, along with Todd Kiech's. I called some companies and they all came aboard like that,' he recalled, snapping his fingers.

Such an event certainly seemed necessary—if for no other reason that there was nothing else like it around. 'It was a niche back then,' Elliott said. 'No one in the dance community raised money but, yet, a lot of people were dying of AIDS back then.'

As for the six troupes that participate this year, they are Giordano Jazz Dance, Hubbard Street Dance, Joffrey Ballet, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, River North Chicago Dance and Thodos Dance Chicago. The companies involved are always local because, as Elliott put it, one of the aims 'is to promote dance in Chicago.'

One of the things that Hubbard Street dancer Cheryl Mann loves about the event is the support network that exists among all the dancers. 'The beauty of this show is that all the companies are in the wings trying to see what [ the company on stage ] is doing. There's such an incredible energy that's created backstage. We inspire each other,' said the dancer, who has been a part of Dance for Life since 1997. ( Hubbard Street's own contribution will be a duet called Kiss, which Mann jokingly referred to as 'the most non-aerial aerial act you'll ever see.' )

AIDS Foundation of Chicago is designated as the main beneficiary. 'They give us everything we need—housing, computers, PR [ and ] staff,' Elliott commented. However, Bonaventure House, a $10,000 beneficiary this year, will benefit nicely. ( Other recipients include Interfaith House, Luck Care Center and the Dance for Life Fund. ) What people may not know is that Dance for Life is actually helping those in other countries as well. 'Last year, we had such a surplus of money that I [ ultimately ] attached myself to this school in Africa with no training or education [ regarding ] HIV/AIDS. We gave them $5,000—and that makes a lot of difference to them,' he added.

Despite all of the success that this event has generated, Elliott wishes that the event never had to exist. When asked what he wishes for the future of Dance for Life, he delivers an answer that one may find simultaneously surprising and understandable. 'I'd like to see it done—not in terms of my passion for it, but in terms of [ the disease being eradicated ] .' However, in the meantime, he can certainly appreciate several aspects of the gala. 'It brings people together, promotes dance in Chicago and raises lots of money. I'm satisfied with where it's at.'

Dance for Life will take place on Aug. 26. The reception is at 5 p.m. and performances commence at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75-$500. See the Web site www.danceforlifechicago.com/tickets.html .


This article shared 2708 times since Wed Aug 16, 2006
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