Courtesy Footnotes artists and Art on theMART

The city of Chicago’s bureaucratic institutions don’t often deign to acknowledge the wealth of regionally born arts movements and figures until gatekeepers in other cities do so first. So last year’s Art on the Mart had the air of coronation for footwork, the dance movement that emerged from the south and west sides in the early 1990s and begat a futuristic house subgenre that’s celebrated around the world. The best of the short videos projected onto the edifice of Merchandise Mart last year was Footnotes, which functions as both a love letter to footwork and a firm argument for its deep connection to Chicago’s deep history of Black art. Produced by multidisciplinary artists Wills Glasspiegel and Brandon K. Calhoun (of all-star footwork crew the Era), Footnotes blends animation and live action to highlight the athletic dance’s innate supercharged electricity—it features dancers from some of the city’s best crews, including Empiire Dance Company, Terra Squad, and the Era. The video’s serene, uplifting music came out of an all-star collaboration that spans genre; Teklife cofounder and footwork innovator DJ Spinn anchors the song, which also features the Chicago Bucket Boys, clarinetist Angel Bat Dawid, vocalist Elisha Chandler, and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble trumpeter Amal Hubert (who is also the son of jazz luminary Phil Cohran). I generally avoided the Chicago Riverwalk even before the pandemic, but Footnotes gave me a genuinely great reason to spend a night gazing up at Merch Mart. It’s a delight to see footwork elevated to Chicago’s skyline, and great to see the love for the form channeled into an inventive, kinetic video that’s impossible to deny.

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