Chicago Dance History Project hosts 1st Talk

Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin (left) chair dancing with vaudeville legend Ernest “Brownie” Brown on Chicago's lakefrontA consortium of local dance advocates, launching an inquiry into the history of theatrical dance in Chicago, will feature tap dance in its first public event. Tap artists Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin, Mark Yonally and Starinah “Star” Dixon will engage in dialogue with Chicago Dance History Project Director Jenai Cutcher West about Chicago’s distinct histories, personalities and styles of tap dance. 


Free and open to the public, “Conversations on Chicago Dance: Tap Over Time” will be the first in a series of multi-generational conversations about specific dance disciplines programmed by the Chicago Dance History Project. “Conversations on Chicago Dance: Tap Over Time” will take place at Old Town School of Folk Music at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 27, and is part of Chicago Dance Month, a comprehensive calendar of dance-related events happening throughout April, spearheaded by Audience Architects in support of International Dance Day on April 29. 


Currently at the beginning of its initial, three-year phase of research and public engagement, the Chicago Dance History Project will conduct in-depth interviews with dancers, choreographers, educators and advocates to investigate how dance has shaped Chicago — and how, in turn, Chicago has shaped the world of dance — throughout the 20th century and into the present. 


Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlinThese recorded oral histories, along with a resulting body of collected and original research, will be made publicly available in order to more comprehensively disseminate the dance knowledge held within the city, to honor Chicago’s rich and diverse history of dance performance and education, and to inspire future modes of preservation and innovation within the art form. 


Following a competitive national search in fall 2014, Jenai Cutcher West was engaged as Project Director in January 2015. Executive Committee members of the Chicago Dance History Project are: Ginger Farley, Executive Director of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum; Michael Kramer, Editor of Design, Publishing and New Media at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; art and dance historian Elizabeth A. Liebman; Susan Manning, Professor of English, Theatre and Performance Studies at Northwestern University; and Zachary Whittenburg, Manager of Communication at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Additional advisers, institutional liaisons, guest speakers and other supporters will be announced as the Chicago Dance History Project continues. 


Susan Manning stated, “We are thrilled to have Jenai Cutcher West as our Project Director. As a tap dancer, writer and documentary filmmaker, she has exactly the range of skills that we need, and as a newcomer to the city, she refreshes our view of the richness of dance in Chicago.”


Photo (top): Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin (left) chair dancing with vaudeville legend Ernest “Brownie” Brown on Chicago’s lakefront back in the day. McLaughlin will speak at the event on April 27. Photo (left): McLaughlin in performance. Photo by Steven E. Gross.