Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s New Dance Lab for Teens

Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

The goal is to nurture the next generation of female choreographers and choreographers of color. "Rena is a fantastic teacher and community builder," says Humphreys. "I thought that she would be perfect to help put this together." Butler has danced in the companies of Bill T. Jones and Kyle Abraham; her performing experience with HSDC includes dancing in the works of contemporary visionaries like Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin and William Forsythe.

There are two kickoff events this fall for the project. The first, to be held October 25, is an introductory session with local dance educators and arts liaisons to introduce Butler. The second event will take place on November 15 for interested students and will include a studio performance and an introductory workshop led by Butler, plus a discussion of what it means to be a choreographer. The program is open to dancers of all styles and levels.

Workshops are at the core of the Dance Lab—there will be four three-hour workshops throughout the school year, culminating in a final sharing in May. Topics will cover everything from the basics of building movement phrases to using poetry and literature, as well as creating social commentary through choreography. Another important aspect of the workshops will be to look at choreographers from the past and how their work continues to influence and inspire dancemakers today.

The Dance Lab will be completely free of charge. Students must apply and complete a basic JotForm, due December 6. The program will include a maximum of 15 students to provide an intimate and personal experience for every student.

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