Using Dance to Beat AIDS

Randy Duncan's piece

Dance for Life Chicago raised money for awareness and funding for HIV/AIDS in August, with performances by Chicago companies, including Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago and River North Dance Chicago. Three Chicago-based dancers--Randy Duncan, Harrison McEldowney and Jeremy Plummer--premiered pieces created specifically for Dance for Life, per its tradition.

Each year, Dance for Life Chicago generates upwards of $200,000 for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and The Dancers' Fund, created by Dance for Life in 1994. "The Dancers' Fund was originally an assistance fund for those living with HIV and AIDS in the dance community," says Anthony Guerrero, managing director. "But in 2001 we opened it up to anyone from the Chicago dance community with a life-threatening or serious illness or injury--dancers, administrators in the dance field, choreographers. Because we're a granting fund, we're able to help with their rent or pay their insurance or electric bill."

Harrison McEldowney and Jeremy Plummer's piece

Dance for Life Chicago also has an event called Next Generation, a benefit produced by and featuring student dancers. Since 1995, it has raised more than $172,000. "We want people to know that we're more than just one amazing evening," says Guerrero.










Photos: by Ed Negron, courtesy of Dance for Life Chicago

Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy TUPAC

When legendary Black ballet dancer Kabby Mitchell III died unexpectedly in 2017, two months before opening his Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center, his friend and business partner Klair Ethridge wasn't sure she had what it took to carry his legacy. Ethridge had been working with Mitchell to co-found TUPAC and planned to serve as its executive director, but she had never envisioned being the face of the school.

Now, Ethridge is heading into her fourth year of leading TUPAC, which she has grown from a fledgling program in an unheated building to a serious ballet school in its own sprung-floor studios, reaching hundreds of students across the Tacoma, Washington, area. The nonprofit has become a case study for what it looks like to carry out the vision of a founder who never had the chance to see his school open—and to take an unapologetically mission-driven approach.

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