Filling the Void Dance Chicago Develops Local Choreographers, Explores Cultural Traditions
Byline: Annie Pinkert Medill News Service
John Schmitz, Dance Chicago co-founder and artistic director, looks forward to the day when Chicago will be viewed as the "choreographic center of the world."
As Schmitz looks back over 10 years of Chicago's month-long dance festival, returning to the refurbished Athenaeum Theatre Saturday, he considers the development of fresh Chicago choreographic talent to be the festival's most notable achievement.
"At the beginning of the festival," Schmitz said, "there were quiet voices around the edges saying Chicago choreography was like a black hole. There was an emphasis on pushing (local) technical (dance) talent and importing the world's best choreographers ... it left a vacuum in the development of the art form itself."
Likening Chicago's dance scene to a theater of actors without directors, Schmitz decided to invest his energies in discovering and developing new Chicago choreographers.
It was then, he said, that the appeal of Dance Chicago "started to skyrocket."
This year, the city's biggest dance festival will feature more than 200 different dance companies and choreographers performing 27 shows of various styles of dance, including jazz, ballet, hip-hop, tango, swing, funk and others.
Lauri Stallings is a talented local choreographer whose work will premiere opening night in connection with the festival's 2004 Dance Chicago Choreography Project. For her, "a new process means a new outlook."
Four years ago, Stallings was selected as one of four local choreographers to partner with accomplished local dancers of different backgrounds.
Stallings' goal was to create original and fresh work.
Funded in part by the Chicago Community Trust Dance Initiative, the enterprise provides choreographers with $10,000 worth of dancers, costumes, floor space and funding, and encourages them to focus solely on developing their creative voice.
"She's getting commissions nationally now," Schmitz said of Stallings. "Everybody wants her work."
Stallings' work, and other products of the choreography project, will premiere on opening night. …