Every summer since 2006, the Chicago Dancing Festival has tried to put dance within reach of everyone. The citywide extravaganza, on the cusp of its tenth anniversary, is billed as “the nation’s largest dance fest” and remains entirely free. It’s come a long way from a decade ago, when cofounders Jay Franke and Lar Lubovitch didn’t know if the concept would make it past year one.
“Lar and I used to turn to each other at the end of every festival and say, ‘Are we doing this again?’ ” says Franke. “We obviously said yes. I’m not sure where the ten years have gone.”
The same could be said about this year’s advance ticket reservations, most of which have been snapped up.
But thanks to expanded programming in honor of the anniversary, you can enjoy the three-hour Planet Chicago at Navy Pier (a CDF first) without a ticket (Fri 8/26, 5 PM). The world-themed showcase features Forward Momentum Chicago, a group of 80 young dancers who’ll perform a traditional South African gumboot dance, plus Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Natya Dance Theatre, and Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago. Dancing Under the Stars at the Pritzker Pavilion (Sat 8/27, 7:30 PM) doesn’t require a reservation either, and features a new piece by choreographer Randy Duncan and the festival debut of the Pennsylvania Ballet along with Hubbard Street Dance, the Joffrey, and more.
So what’s in store for the next ten years? “Truthfully, my hope is to get through the tenth anniversary,” Franke jokes. “The hope is that we achieve a beautiful starry night at the Pritzker on Saturday, get through the eye of the needle, and then address what happens next.”
In the meantime, there’s another opportunity to snag some free tickets to a premier dance event. On Friday, September 16, at 7:30 PM, in celebration of the MacArthur Foundation’s 35th anniversary, the Harris Theater hosts An Evening of Dance With MacArthur Fellows, featuring work by past “genius grant” recipients including Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris, Kyle Abraham, and Susan Marshall (the last performed by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago). General admission tickets will be released to the public today at noon; reservations are available here.
Chicago Dancing Festival Tue 8/23-Sat 8/27, various locations, chicagodancingfestival.com, free.