A consortium of local dance advocates, launching an inquiry into the history of theatrical dance in Chicago, will feature tap dance in its first public event. Tap artists Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin, Mark Yonally, and Starinah “Star” Dixon will engage in dialogue with Jenai Cutcher West, director for Chicago Dance History Project, about the city’s distinct histories, personalities and styles of tap dance.
Free and open to the public, “Conversations on Chicago Dance: Tap Over Time” will be the first in a series of multi-generational conversations about specific dance disciplines programmed by the Chicago Dance History Project. The event will take place at Old Town School of Folk Music Monday, April 27 at 7 p.m. and is part of Chicago Dance Month, a comprehensive calendar of dance-related events happening throughout April, spearheaded by Audience Architects in support of International Dance Day on April 29.
Currently at the beginning of its initial, three-year phase of research and public engagement, the Chicago Dance History Project will conduct in-depth interviews with dancers, choreographers, educators and advocates to investigate just how dance has shaped Chicago — and how, in turn, Chicago has shaped the world of dance — throughout the 20th century and into the present.
According to a Chicago Dance History Project, these recorded oral histories, along with a resulting body of collected and original research, will be made publicly available in order to more comprehensively disseminate the “dance knowledge” held within the city, to honor Chicago’s rich and diverse history of dance performance and education, and to inspire future modes of preservation and innovation within the art form.
Following a competitive national search in fall 2014, Jenai Cutcher West was engaged as project director in January 2015. Susan Manning, professor of English, theatre and performance studies at Northwestern University and a member of the executive committee that conducted the executive search, noted the committee’s excitement to be working with West on the new initiative, “As a tap dancer, writer, and documentary filmmaker, she has exactly the range of skills that we need, and as a newcomer to the city, she refreshes our view of the richness of dance in Chicago.”
Tap artist Reggio McGaughlin will participate in Chicago Dance History Project's first event, "Conversations on Chicago Dance: Tap Over Time" (photo by Stephen E. Gross).
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts