The Chicago Human Rhythm Project announced today that it had secured more than $500,000—including $275,000 from the MacArthur Foundation—from various funders to establish a new movement-arts center. With additional funding, the proposed downtown space—which would include rehearsal, administrative, and education facilities—could open as soon as fall 2011.
Aha! The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. I wondered what quixotic dream had befallen Rahm Emanuel when he started talking to Chris Jones about making Chicago an international destination for dance. International? Really? I was intrigued but skeptical. (And what was Rahm doing talking to the “Trib” anyway, the paper that’s slashed its local arts coverage in recent years in favor of celebrity gossip and “news” about TV shows?)
Lane Alexander, head of CHRP for its 21 years, is clearly the linchpin in Rahm’s scheme to transform Chicago into Dance Central for the World. Last week Alexander was named to the mayor-elect’s Arts and Culture transition team—the only representative of Chicago’s dance community—and now this. You do have to wonder whether Emanuel’s influence greased the wheels of nonprofit commerce… or maybe it’s the other way around, and he’s profiting from Alexander’s years of hard work.
Because Alexander fully deserves this success. He’s brought tons of creativity to his efforts to put percussive dance on the international map. CHRP’s “Global Rhythms” shows, which started at the Museum of Contemporary Art and are now at the Harris, introduced Chicago to a host of international percussive groups of all kinds, an initiative aided by Alexander’s innovative Thanks 4 Giving revenue-sharing program. And last spring, when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine, Alexander talked about his collaborative work in Beijing and his wish to create an American rhythm center.
Unfortunately, the working title for the new center is the Collaborative Space for Sustainable Development. Fortunately, the concept embraces many dance forms: resident companies include Billy Siegenfeld’s Jump Rhythm Jazz Project; Kalapriya, Center for Indian Performing Arts; Luna Negra Dance Theater (recently taken over by Spanish native Gustavo Ramirez Sansano), Ping Pong Productions (which apparently facilitated CHRP’s visit to China); and River North Dance Chicago, a jazz-dance based group that artistic director Frank Chaves recently described as “accessible and entertaining.” Though I’m not familiar with Ping Pong, which seems to focus on dance-oriented collaborations in China, the rest are all well-established Chicago troupes that could still use the support this eventually self-sustaining organization might provide. Suellen Burns, former Arts Bridge executive director, has been hired as CSSD program director.