Last night I got to watch a run-thru of this year’s Dance For Life (DFL) finale at the Lou Conte Dance Studios. DFL is the hugely-popular annual concert benefiting the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Dance For Life Fund. Five top local companies share the stage for a one-night-only dance extravaganza in honor of the 20th year of this charity event. Once again, Randy Duncan will be choreographing the grand finale incorporating dancers from diverse companies across the city. His DFL finales from the past two decades are the stuff of Chicago dance legend (and his notoriously difficult and fast choreography!) and are one of the many reasons people keep coming back every year. Harrison McEldowney took over finale duties last year, while Duncan was out of the country, so this year both choreographers created pieces for the show. Along with these two multi-company collaborations, the performance will include performances by Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Joffrey Ballet (a solo by new company member Rory Hohenstein), River North Dance Chicago (Sherry Zunker’s Evolution of a Dream) and Ron De Jesús Dance.
Last night’s preview was attended by a small group of donors, collaborators, board members, dancers, special guests…and me! I had the luck to sit in between the fantastic Jeff Hancock (who designed the barely there costumes for the finale) and the fabulous McEldowney (they had a preview of his piece the night before). Duncan greeted everyone and said a few words before the run, mentioning that the Auditorium Theatre – where DFL will be held this year for the first time – is his favorite theater. The theater has 4,000 seats and almost 3,000 tickets have been sold, so tickets are still available ($50)! Then the eclectic group of dancers took over. Representing Giordano, Ron De Jesus Dance, River North, Same Planet Different World, Milwaukee Ballet with a number of freelance/independent artists, the group had one thing in common besides being terrific dancers. The majority of them were graduates from the Chicago Academy of the Arts, where Duncan is the Chair of the Dance Department. A talented group! Set to an interesting interpretation of Stand By Me, the music has a section where there is parts of an inspirational speech overlaid saying “many of them asked, why me?” and “together, yes, we can move mountains”. The dancing and the choreography are both motivational and moving. That’s all I’m going to tell you for now, because I want you to GO SEE IT! Great show + great cause = great evening of entertainment. This is a chance to see some of the top dancers and companies in Chicago on one stage together. Do it! Buy your tickets now 🙂