Year of Chicago Dance


Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE and the Local Dance Community Designate 2022 as The “Year of Chicago Dance”

Citywide, year-long focus on dance will address critical issues facing Chicago’s dancers and the field of dance including funding, space, and capacity building

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CHICAGO–In deep partnership with the local dance community, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Erin Harkey have designated 2022 as the “Year of Chicago Dance.” This citywide, year-long focus on dance is the first of its kind in the U.S. The collaborative initiative will activate Chicago’s dance industry to address critical issues facing dancers and the field of dance including funding, space, and capacity building — and to consider the sustainability of this work. The Year of Chicago Dance will, of course, also include dance performances, social dancing, and special events for the public in dozens of venues throughout the city.

Chicago is a hub for arts and culture and boasts a thriving dance community — home to some of the premier contemporary and ballet companies in the U.S. today; with an estimated 425 dance schools/studios, 344 presenters/venues and hundreds of other organizations; and the birthplace of Footwork and other dance styles — but according to a recent report on “Mapping the Dance Landscape in Chicagoland,” nearly two-thirds of our dancers and choreographers earn less than $15,000 annually from dance and 12 percent work entirely without pay.

“The pandemic took a particularly devastating toll on our performing arts industry as shows were canceled, venues were closed, and artists faced financial insecurity,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Through the ‘Year of Chicago Dance,’ we will be able to further revitalize our arts and culture scene as well as show off our incredible dance industry to the rest of the country. DCASE and I are proud to offer this well-deserved spotlight to the dance community, which continues to bring us beauty, culture, and experiences of a lifetime.”

“Following these past two tumultuous years, the 2022 Year of Chicago Dance is a much-needed spark of hope and inspiration for our dance community,” said Maricza Valentín, CEO and Artistic Director of Latin Rhythms Dance and a long-time Chicago SummerDance instructor. “From instructors to choreographers, feeling like we are being seen, heard, and considered is an amazing gift.”

The 2022 Year of Chicago Dance follows the successes of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020/21 initiatives, which highlighted Chicago’s public art, our creative youth, and the city’s vibrant theatre and music scenes. Partners will include dance service organizations Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project, Chicago Dancemakers Forum, and See Chicago Dance — as well as Art on theMART, Night Out in the Parks at the Chicago Park District and many other presenters and funders.

Celebrating 10 years in 2022, Night Out in the Parks at the Chicago Park District ( is committed to bringing dance programming and events to all of Chicago’s 77 community areas. Audiences can look forward to multiple genres of dance including theater, music, and films highlighting dancers and choreographers, all in celebration of Chicago’s rich and vibrant dance scene.

Today’s announcement is aligned with Art on theMART (, celebrating the Year of Chicago Dance with four new projections as part of its summer and fall seasons highlighting the choreographers, dancers and visual artists that bring the medium to its full potential: Floe by Carrie Hanson, an untitled piece by Shkunna Stewart and Wills Glasspiegel featuring youth dance groups, Trap Moulin Rouge by Jasmin Taylor, and Love Letters by Yuge Zhou.

See Chicago Dance ( — the leading service organization for dance in Chicago, whose mission is to advocate for and strengthen a diverse range of dance organizations and artists through services and programs that build and engage audiences — will mark the 2022 Year of Chicago Dance by presenting Chicago Dance Month in June and by curating a robust roster of performances in partnership with Navy Pier, the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project. Other initiatives include a Dance for Camera Production Residency, a community needs assessment, and re-envisioning its journalism platform.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum ( celebrates the Year of Chicago Dance with Elevate Chicago Dance: eMerge, a festival highlighting the extraordinary artistry of Chicago's radically diverse dancemakers. Elevate (October 2022) features performances, workshops, and showings by Chicago-based dancemakers at venues across the city including the Chicago Cultural Center, The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, and Big Marsh Park. Elevate also promotes local artists through meetings and discussions with local, national, and international dance presenters. In addition, Chicago Dancemakers Forum offers regular artist-to-artist gatherings for local dancemaking artists to network, share their current artistic practice, and engage in open dialogue.

In celebration of the Year of Chicago Dance, Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project ( in partnership with the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at The University of Chicago will present two dynamic performances in the spring and summer to advance the organization’s mission and amplify diverse voices in dance throughout the city. This celebration builds on the vision to support dance programming, facilitate access to funding, and build capacity for senior and artistic leadership of the project’s eight partner companies: Ayodele Drum and Dance, Chicago Multicultural Dance Center, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Forward Momentum Chicago, Joel Hall Dancers & Center, Muntu Dance Theatre, Najwa Dance Corps, and Red Clay Dance Company. CBDLP will also launch a historic archive project that aims to preserve and celebrate the history of Black dance in Chicago.

In 2022, DCASE ( will present many familiar programs, all free, including the much-loved Chicago SummerDance, bringing a range of social dance and live music downtown and in neighborhoods across the city, special dance concerts in Millennium Park and more. For dancemakers, the Chicago Cultural Center’s Dance Studio will become available once again through a forthcoming application process, providing space for new work development and opportunities for public engagement through workshops, artist talks, and work-in-progress showings. And the DCASE Cultural Grants Program will support Chicago’s dance industry via its CityArts Program project grants (Application opens February 7 at and its Individual Artists Program grants — including up to six Esteemed Artist Awards of $15,000 per artist for their significant contributions to the dance field. (Application for that program closed in January; awards will be made in April.)

DCASE in partnership with Chicago’s philanthropic community will be making other financial resources available to dance industry professionals and organizations throughout this year.

Christopher “Mad Dog” Thomas, a Chicago footwork dancer and 2022 co-recipient of the Americans for the Arts’ Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities, notes, “Over the last 16 years with Kuumba Lynx I focused on using footwork as a tool of resistance to address root cause of social, environmental, and economical issues. A Year of Chicago Dance will open a window of opportunity to discuss what happens to black and brown dance communities when they are directly affected by gentrification, education, police, policy, and no room for economic revenue to sustain their styles of urban dance.” In 2022, Thomas will explore codifying his style of Chicago Footwork while developing new choreographies that tell the stories of how bodies react to certain traumas.

For updates throughout the year, visit and join the conversation on social media using #YearofChicagoDance.