Chicago Human Rhythm Project was co-founded by Lane Alexander and Kelly Michaels in 1990, as a summer festival to benefit HIV/AIDS patients at the Gus Giordano Dance Center in Evanston, IL. CHRP has since grown into one of the nation’s biggest promoters of tap (at last count in 2007, 40,000 people attended its programs). It gives lecture demonstrations for K–12 students, annually awards $15,000 in scholarships and presents outreach residency programs in Chicago-area youth centers and schools.
Twenty years after its founding, the organization celebrates its longevity with the Rhythm World summer festival, which runs July 26–August 8 at various downtown Chicago locations. Once a small fundraiser, the event is now the oldest annual tap festival in the world, with master classes, workshops and performances. This year’s honorees are legendary tappers Dianne Walker and Sam Weber, the only two individuals present at all 20 CHRP Festivals; Gene Medler, the founder of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble; and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
“Our 20th anniversary is not just a milestone for CHRP, but for the entire field, especially because we’re still fighting for recognition in institutions, in universities and in people’s minds,” says Cameron Heinze, CHRP community development manager. “Tap is a much older artform than styles like contemporary dance, but it has far less institutional support.”
Keeping up with the times and moving into the future, CHRP added to this year’s event a new social media component, Virtual Rhythms. This “tapography” competition for emerging choreographers and videographers invited participants to post video entries online. The general public voted on the winners, who will share the stage with great tappers from across the country during Rhythm World’s JUBA performances on August 4, 5 and 7 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Info: chicagotap.org