Credit: Philamonjaro

“Dancing for peace” may sound like a 1980s charity single, but it’s the fundamental idea behind
Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Stomping Grounds festival, which has been
bringing percussive dance to communities around the city for four years to
put on free or low-price performances. Organizing dance companies
representing a variety of international cultures demands a level of
collaboration that inspires and excites CHRP founder and director Lane
Alexander.

“Getting people to say ‘we’re for peace’ isn’t that difficult,” says
Alexander. “But then there’s getting everybody to go to meetings and plan
schedules 18 months in advance. Working with seven different venues and
Chicago public and private schools for our lecture demonstrations. There’s
a bunch of moving parts, and everyone is stretching their capacity to make
this happen.”

Stomping Grounds began in early April at the Chicago Cultural Center and
continued through the next two months at various venues around town. The
grand finale will be June 7; the city has donated the Pritzker Pavilion
stage for the occasion. This free public event spotlights the full festival
lineup, which includes new additions like Chicago Dance Crash and Natya
Dance Theatre. Cultural diversity is key to the festival’s success, and
Alexander believes that the universal language of rhythm connects people on
a spiritual level.

“The most ancient practices of percussive dance were always sacred
rituals,” says Alexander. “We’re divorced from communities gathering daily
or weekly to dance together, but it can’t be separated from the practice.
When people go to see percussive dance and they come away feeling
energized, it’s because it’s rooted in spirituality, and nearly every first
community shared that practice. That unifies us in a way that makes the
message really resonate.”   v