Chicago’s Dance Month Makes Waves for June and Beyond Dance

Chicago Dance Month returns for a ninth time in June with in-person events featuring Chicago dancers and outdoor dance companies at Navy Pier and McKinley Park. Previously held in April, this year’s celebration kicks off a whole summer of Saturdays with dancing at Navy Pier produced by See Chicago Dance. There will also be an online presentation on June 24 as part of Chicago takes 10, a virtual tour of the performing arts in Chicago sponsored by the Walder Foundation.

“I always want as many people to participate in Chicago Dance Month as I can,” says SCD’s community engagement manager. Surinder Martignetti, which has been producing Chicago Dance Month for several years, and whose dance backgrounds include bhangra, ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary Russian folk dance, and Scottish Highland dance. “I want to have a representation of different parts of the city and different genres of dance – concert dance, street dance, cultural dances – the depth and breadth of the Chicago dance community.” Through as inclusive a selection process as possible (“Who does things? Who wants to do things? Who is available for what date?”), SCD strives to feature almost all dance organizations that respond to their call. at Winter Projects, abiding with their mission as a service organization for the Chicago dance community.

Founded in 2003, “SCD began as a marketing initiative, the goal of which was to help small dance companies and individual dance artists reach a larger audience and sell tickets,” says the executive director. . Julia mayer. “In recent years, especially with the pandemic, there has been a shift in focus towards community well-being with the recognition that our roots in our history are in a particular pattern of promoting dance and of the often Eurocentric dance presentation. Part of what we do is work to diversify who and how we serve to include advocacy and education. “

“Chicagoans, both the public and the dance industry, realized that more than a calendar of events was needed,” says Martignetti. “It went organically from calendar to marketing support. People started asking us questions – and that’s where the service organization part of SCD came together.” Developed to focus visibility on the spring seasons of many dance companies at once, Chicago Dance Month continues to amplify the existing work of dance companies and artists in the city. “I don’t really think of us as a presenting organization, even though we present fleeting events,” she says. “I produce these events in service of what people are doing in the community to bring dance to areas of town and people of town who normally wouldn’t see dancing. I love these moments of dancing. These are the most beautiful interactions. ”

This year, Martignetti speaks with particular enthusiasm about the treasure hunt, a self-guided tour from June 9th and 30th to the McKinley Park featuring dance performances along the route. “It’s a beautiful wooded area, and there is a garden and a green area and lots of interesting spaces for dancing,” she says. “We have Indian and belly dances and Middle Eastern dances, films that I show from the field, and contemporary work. Regarding security protocols, she notes that the park area requires masks on its property and adds, “We keep the groups small and do several tours of the park to make sure there is room for people to hang out. disperse and remain socially distant. “For members of the public who wish to learn more about the dance, volunteers will be posted by each group of performers to help and offer information.

As the Chicago dance community continues to grapple with the global pandemic and a nationwide racial calculation, Martignetti and Mayer offer perspectives on how SCD operates as a service organization.

“The past year has been very difficult,” says Martignetti, who was SCD’s interim executive director before Mayer’s appointment in August. “I made a lot of phone calls and medical visits to all of the members of the SCD membership roster several times during the first few months of the pandemic, although it was as little as leaving a voicemail saying : ‘Hey, I think of you, here is my number – please call. I had open and real conversations. It was what I needed and what others needed at the time. ”

The invitation to seek dialogue and resources remains open to the community. “We are providing an opportunity for all members to say, ‘Hey, I have a question or I want to learn something’ – give me a call and I’ll give you ideas, resources and food for thought. conversations topics like, we need to restructure our board, who can I go to for grants, we have a show coming up and we don’t know how to market on social media. I’m there for people to talk and I’m never more than a phone call away. “

“Recognizing the effect of the pandemic on artists’ ability to make a living doing their jobs, we will be hosting a series of training and mentoring opportunities for dance on film,” Mayer says of the partnership with SCD with Building a resilient performing arts sector, an initiative sponsored by the Walder Foundation. This program will be launched later in the year. There will be workshops dealing with the fundamentals of film dance creation, and in 2022 there will be a more focused mentoring phase where some of the 2021 participants will have the opportunity to create a full job. “

For the longer term, Mayer says, “We are developing a dance amplification committee, which will include a few members of our board of directors, but will primarily be a group that will meet, people we invite and members of the board. of the group invite. of the things we are aware of is a traditional white supremacist framework of who is the keeper and who is not. We are in the process of developing a mission and a purpose for this committee. “

In the meantime, she mentions, “Our journalism platform grew out of the idea that if there was more writing about dance, it would help people learn about dance and sell tickets. dance critic for Note newspapers that in Chicago I think our platform filled a void to provide exposure to particular artists and dancers and ideas and considerations, failures and missteps, whatever is human in what our organization and the community feel. “ v

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