Chicago Dancers Unite








Dance for Life, Chicago Dancers United’s exuberant and joyful fundraiser featuring top Chicago dance companies, returns to the Auditorium Theatre on August 13, followed by an after-party at Venue SIX10 for patrons, dancers, and choreographers.


NAJWA Dance Corps. Photo courtesy of NAJWA Dance Corps.


Giordano Dance Chicago. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.


Parallel Lives, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. Photo by Michelle Reid.

Providing funds for preventative health care and critical medical needs for Chicago dance industry professionals for the past 31 years, Dance for Life brings together companies and dancers who donate their time, energy, and artistry to what is considered by many to be the most triumphant night of summer.

Chicago Dance Crash, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, Giordano Dance Chicago, the Joffrey Ballet, NAJWA Dance Corps, and Trinity Irish Dance Company will perform, and Randy Duncan will choreograph a world premiere finale.


As One, Randy Duncan’s world premiere finale for Dance for Life 2021. Photo by Cheryl Mann.


Randy Duncan.

Ross Slotten and Ted Grady, co-chairs along with Jennifer Edgcomb, told us all about it with obvious anticipation: “Each company speaks its own language and this year’s companies showcase many different cultures. We have tiered seating, with ticket prices starting at $25 so that many can attend. Seats are filling quickly. Because of COVID our Dance for Life was outdoors in Millennium Park last year with picnics and a beautiful day. But it is wonderful to be returning to the Auditorium Theatre.  Our audience has broadened since the early days, with families, friends, and all age groups.”

Grady, a native of St. Louis, heads J&L Catering, one of the several companies providing food for the after-party. He is well known for his work on behalf of the LGBTQ community, including leadership on global issues through the Heartland Alliance.

“I am in the food business and one of the reasons I love being involved with this incredible event is that for me food is like dance.  It brings people together to celebrate Both dance and food have always spoken to me,” he explained. “At our after-party several catering companies will be donating food representing different cultures.”


Ross Slotten and Ted Grady.

A general practitioner who became an infectious disease specialist during the height of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, Slotten wrote what he has described as a Holocaust memoir of that time. In 2020, The University of Chicago Press published this memoir, Plague Years: A Doctor’s Journey through the AIDS Crisis. He was among the earliest physicians providing sensitive and caring services at Chicago’s original Howard Brown Memorial Clinic. In 2014 the Chicago native was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. 

Slotten explained that in the earliest days of Dance for Life, the amount of time he had to give to this practice prevented him from attending the performances: “I think I missed the first performances because I was so totally immersed in my practice. The first funds went to those suffering from HIV-AIDS but now the mission has broadened. This is a beautiful gala and great event.  It is amazing to me that we have to raise money for health insurance when in so many other countries people already have this help.”

“Right now we are concentrating on getting the word out, we want every seat filled. The Auditorium is such a big, beautiful venue,” Grady shared. “The performance will be from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m. with the gala following at 8. All performers and choreographers are invited to attend with the real plus of getting to engage up close with these extremely talented people.”


Michael Anderson.

Michael Anderson, President of the Board of Directors of Chicago Dancers United and former Joffrey Ballet dancer, added, “Now in our 31st year, we are still committed to our original mission and vision, which was to help our Chicago dance community. Of course, in the beginning, it was a response to the AIDS crisis, but the impetus remains the same today: the dance community coming together to support and help each other, Chicago dance professionals helping Chicago dance professionals. We really want to get the point across that we are here to help our dance community to ‘remain healthy’ instead of only stepping in when there is a crisis or they are unhealthy.”


Booms Day, Chicago Dance Crash. Photo by Ashley Deran.


Élégie (rehearsal), The Joffrey Ballet. Photo courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet.


American Traffic, Trinity Irish Dance Company. Photo by Chelsea Hoy.


Baile de Luis Alonso, Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. Photo by Dave Suarez.

Throughout its history, Dance for Life has presented more than 40 Chicago-based professional dance companies representing a variety of genres, sizes, and histories and numerous choreographers, artists, and designers. The AIDS Foundation Chicago and the American Cancer Society are additional beneficiaries of Dance for Life.


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