Second Annual Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival – Bringing People Together

2nd Annual Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival, Photo:Justin cooper

A friend and I had the opportunity of participating in the Second Annual Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival and discovered new experiences, new people and new ideas. My friend commented that she found herself moving in ways she did not know she could.  The event was held at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities at 2102 W. Ogden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612 on Saturday, April 6th from 9:30 am to 5pm. Though we were not there during the entire festival, what we did attend, was joyful and meaningful. It was a well thought out and well-organized event that brought people together with a wide range of skills and interests. This was the perfect venue.

Entering the building

The program included Movement Workshops by MOMENTA’s EveryBody Can Dance and Butoh expert Wannapa P-Eubanks, Integrated Dance Films including INCLINATIONS by Disability Dance Works, MOMENTA, and Wobbly Dance, a presentation by Dr. Carrie Sandahl, founder of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, and concluded with award-winning choreographer, Ginger Lane, creating a work-in-progress for Access_ Living’s/MOMENTA’S  2019 Counter Balance – The Power of Physically Integrated Dance.

Everyone can dance

Deb Goodman was the curator for the Second Annual Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival.  She agreed to answer some questions about the event.

What was the impetus for holding a festival of this kind?

In 2016, I met a colleague, named Sarah Furnish, at the Midwest Convening on Physically Integrated Dance. Sarah saw in that event a need for the people in the inclusive dance community to have more opportunities to meet. She approached me and we started cooking up a plan to build a dance festival. When we mentioned our plans to the folks at Momenta, they saw an opportunity for a collaboration. Each year, Access Living, Bodies of Work and MOMENTA present CounterBalance, an Integrated Dance concert. Someone, thought a series of workshops six months before the performance, would be a great way to build momentum. And, so it was that The Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival was born.

Back to back mirroring, Photo: Justin Cooper

How did this festival differ from last year’s?

The main difference between this year and last was having only one event happening at a time. Last year, we had two events happening simultaneously. Everyone felt that choosing was painful because they had to miss something that they had wanted to see or do.

What were any notable “results” from last year’s festival?

Yes, off the top of my head, I’d say a few. Our community has grown, our network has gotten stronger. We’ve brought new dancers to the stage and have spawned some collaborations. For instance, last year’s CounterBalance had dancers from the festival involved. And, CounterBalance was also sold out. (not that the festival can take credit for that.. )

Was the attendance this year different than last year’s?

Yes. We had about 15 or 20 more attendees than last year, and there were many new faces. Last year was mainly people with whom we had previously known and worked. 

What is the wish for this year’s festival?

I do want to create an opportunity for the awesome inclusive dance community in Chicago to celebrate. My wish is to bring more dancers, especially disabled dancers into the community, to inspire them to seek training and a stage. My hope is to offer a networking opportunity that will inspire collaborations.

The talk begins

From my perspective as an attendee with no attachments to any group, it seemed that the conference accomplished its goals. The movement activities were fun and brought people together so that chatting was comfortable and a lot of information was exchanged in a few minutes.  The talk by Dr. Carrie Sandahl founder of the Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC, was engrossing.  There were several conundrums that gave the audience ideas to ponder and a few minutes to share their thoughts with small groups.  The standout of the talk for me was the notion that people with disabilities can have a profound impact on the “able bodied” population: concepts, adaptations, and simply ways of looking at and living in the world that may lead in new directions and not necessarily fit into the standard “abled” guidelines.

Watching the film, Photo: Rebecca Torres

The films were almost shocking in theirenergy and creativity. And Ginger Lane’s choreographic work was fun and I would think, the perfect vehicle for collaboration.

Ginger Lane, arts and culture project coordinator for Access Living, and artistic director of the 9 previous CounterBalance concertsshared:

One “outcome” from last year was that the “work-in-progress” that was begun then blossomed into a full dancework for 16 dancers that was performed at 2018’s CounterBalance dance concert. Because of the success of that piece we decided to continue with a 2nd “work in progress” this year that on Saturday involved 30 dancers. It will be performed at 2019’s CounterBalance Sept 7 and 8 at Center on Halsted.

Ginger Lane choreographing a new dance

“Community” is choreographed by Ginger Lane, arts and culture project coordinator for Access Living, and artistic director of the Counter Balance concert. Lane is also a MOMENTA company dancer who uses a wheelchair and wanted to create a piece to “embrace the wider world and the concept of a shared humanity.”

“Community” is based on the idea of Inclusion: that although not everyone can be a trained dancer, most folks love to move, and enjoy being part of a group that shares a common interest. The goal was to engage a diverse group of folks that crossed racial, age, ethnic, gender identity, and disability barriers, and showcased dancers with and without disabilities working together to create a unified whole, and explore what it means to be fully human.  This year’s “Community” piece will include dancers from Israel’s Vertigo-Power of Balance Integrated Dance Company.

Photos by B. Keer unless otherwise noted.

More information for:

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

Access Living


Program on Disability Art, Culture, and Humanities at UIC

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