Today’s “10 Questions With…” features John Schmitz, the man behind Dance Chicago…
1. Can you tell me your name, your location and a little about your dance background?
John Schmitz, Chicago Illinois. As the founder of Dance Chicago and its producer, Emergence Dance Theatre, I have been producing dance events for 26 years, promoting alliances and collaborations between artists and dance organizations both nationally and internationally. I have always believed in the power of the Chicago dance community to become a creative world force in choreography.
I have directed Ballet Chicago, Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, The Joel Hall Dancers, The Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble, Rockford Dance Company, as well as Emergence Dance Theatre. As a member of the Chicago Community Trust’s Dance Advisory Committee, I founded the Dance Chicago Choreography Project. I believe that dance can drive emotional transformation – making you feel better about life when you leave the theatre than you did before you entered the theatre.
2. What is Dance Chicago?
Dance Chicago presents the work of Chicago area choreographers and companies. It isn’t an organization, but a program on Emergence Dance Theatre. There is a dance festival every year that provides a showcase for these works.
3. How did it come about?
In 1995 we needed to address the lack of interest in Chicago dance. It was scattered across the city, with little audience and little networking and no awareness of the importance of choreographic development. With funding from Philip Morris, Kraft and the MacArthur Foundation we birthed Dance Chicago ’95.
4. What types of dancers/companies have performed at your venue?
There have been many companies/dancers that have performed at Dance Chicago. Some of these include: Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Moscow Ballet, AMEBA Acrobatic & Aerial Dance, Lucky Plush Productions and Chicago Tap Theatre. There are many more….you can see the complete list on the website.
5. How is Dance Chicago carried out?
+ 10 to 12 thematically driven programs: Streets, New Moves, etc.
+ 20 to 25 performances, each of up to 13 different choreographers
+ 250+ choreographers/companies, 3,000 artists
In 15 seasons, that comes to 40,000 dance artists, 4,000 different Chicago dance organizations and the works of over 3,500 different choreographers.
There is also an International Exchange Program where Chicago choreographers set works on foreign companies–and foreign companies perform works in Dance Chicago as well.
The stars of Dance Chicago perform abroad, thanks to the partnerships that have been developed with the Dutch National Ballet, South Korea’s Kim Geung Soo Ballet Company, Tirana Show Dance Companyin Albania and Istanbul Dance Theatre.
They also have performing opportunities throughout the nation, with organizations such as the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, the Omaha Theater Ballet, the Ajkun Ballet Theatre and LehrerDance.
The choreography Project is open to all Chicago choreographers.
There are awards for the following:
+ Dance Chicago Choreographer of the Year Award: $1,000
+ Dance Chicago Outstanding Choreographer Award (New Voice)
+ Dance Chicago Outstanding Choreographer Award (Body of Work)
Also, Chicago choreographers teach and set works on area college and high school dance programs and high school and college programs perform works in Dance Slam competitions and other programs.
5. I noticed that you have rehursal space available. Can you tell readers more about that?
Yes. There are five inexpensive dance studios that are located in a good neighborhood with parking. They have sprung floors, marley, mirrors and sound systems. The address is 1439 West Wellington, and you can find the schedule on Facebook, or on the website.
It is a year around task. We have been well-funded by foundations for 15 seasons, but the economic collapse has severely undermined that support. This year is vital for individual contributions and ticket sales to pull us through. People can donate online at www.dancechicago.com, or contact me directly and we can meet to discuss your involvement. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer offerings include: box office, ushers, drivers, editors and stagehands. There are also marketing and production internships available.
7. Can you tell readers a bit about the awards that you have received throughout your career?
Some past awards include: Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year, The Columbia College Arts Entrepreneurship of the Year Award, and Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Dance Community. Some of John’s other projects the International Exchange Program, Dance Link, the Choreographic Advancement Program, the Best of Dance Chicago (Illinois) and Stars of Dance Chicago (International).
8. Can you talk a bit about your passion for this project?
I live and breathe it. I have been transformed by the work and I believe have developed dance curating into an art form of its own. When I started, the word “choreography” did not exist in Chicago dance. Now, thanks to Dance Chicago, Chicago choreographers are being employed worldwide – example Lauri Stallings started here.
9. How can Chicago-area dance professionals become involved with Dance Chicago?
Fill out the online application. All dance forms are welcomed and encouraged.
10. What is coming up on the horizon for Dance Chicago and for you?
I’m constantly refining and evolving the process, holding on to what we do best–but still looking to address the needs of the future.