FootworKINGz to light up the dance floor at Art for All Gala

This Friday is Urban Gateways’ Art for All Gala at Chicago’s Venue One, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel as Honorary Chair. We are thrilled about this event and about our wonderful performers – jazz trio The Second Hand Three, Elements Contemporary Ballet (both previously featured on this blog), Young Chicago Authors’ Louder Than a Bomb…and now, as a final lead-up, we’d like to introduce you to FootworKINGz, an incredible street dance group and our final Gala performance. Leida “Lady Sol” Villegas-Garcia, the manager of FootworKINGz and an Urban Gateways artist, tells us all about it.

About FootworKINGz:

Our ensemble’s mission is to expose, preserve, and teach a very unique, lower body street dance style born in Chicago called “Footworkin’.” This style has been described as part African tribal, tap without hoofs, and/or the urban Riverdance!

The FootworKINGz (FWK) started as an avenue for inner-city youth to become professional dancers/choreographers/instructors and gain international recognition for their contribution to the global street dance community. FWK has achieved this by competing and teaching footwork classes in world class competitions such as Juste Debout in Paris from 2009-present. FWK has won “House Dance” and “Hip-Hop Freestyle” competition categories in the United Kingdom, Scandanavia, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They have gained commercial exposure on television shows such as MTV’s “Best Dance Crew,” NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” and “Ellen’s Really Big Show” on TBS.

The bigger picture for us is to continue our professional work on stage and maintain urban dance education programs that help develop Chicago youths, both personally and professionally.

About Leida’s involvement with UG:

I’ve been a teaching dance artist with Urban Gateways for over 5 years. I have taught in-school and after-school Hip Hop dance residencies across Chicago and neighboring suburban elementary and secondary schools. One of my focuses within my curriculum is to expose youths to Hip Hop history, music, and specific dance styles from the 70s to 2000.

Her take on arts education:

As a child, I was fortunate that by chance my mom’s friend convinced her to enroll my brother and me at Walt Disney Magnet School. Attending Disney changed our lives. At a very early age (maybe 3rd grade) I was exposed to Disney’s arts programs in dance, drama, music and art. I already loved to dance as early as Kindergarten, but my first formal classes were at Disney by way of Ms. Cham (an African/Asian teacher), who exposed me to Ballet, Jazz and African styles. My life’s passion was discovered and I have followed this passion into my adult life, which in turn has allowed me to make a good, honest, and respectable living.

I support UG’s mission because the arts positively changed my life as a youth raised by Mexican immigrant parents who granted us spectacular opportunities by enrolling us in CPS schools that offered accessible, free arts programs. Thanks to Dance, my world view has been truly enlightened as a result of my professional dance experiences performing across continents. Who would have thought this girl from Humboldt Park would have grown into a world traveler? Not me!!