Q+A with Chicago Dance Crash: Promoting Art for All, from Schools to the Modern Wing

The Art for All Gala is three weeks away (which we can hardly believe), and as we highlighted last week, we’re offering an incredible lineup of entertainment at this year’s event. Among the other fabulous performances – jazz music, spoken word, Mexican folkloric dance by Urban Gateways students – our guests will be witnessing a live show by Chicago Dance Crash, an Urban Gateways touring group whose dynamic energy and passion consistently amaze us. Their modern, accessible, and always gorgeous dance numbers are definitely something to look forward to at this year’s Gala. So in honor of the occasion, we thought we’d have a few words with Chicago Dance Crash’s Artistic Director, Jessica Deahr, and share them with you! Enjoy!

UG: Tell us a little about Chicago Dance Crash’s mission and style. What are you all about?

Jessica: Chicago Dance Crash is a multi-disciplined, contemporary dance company, meaning that we draw on many dance styles including ballet, breakdancing, hip hop, acrobatics, and everything in between. We specifically hire dancers who specialize in one style but are capable of all of the others. This gives us the freedom to feature one style specifically or create our own choreographic hybrids that fuse various styles together. Because of this, we are known for having a very unique, athletic, and diverse style that sets us apart from other dance companies. The company strives to develop a wider appreciation within the community for dance as an influential art form and as an accessible form of entertainment. Thanks to this emphasis on being both artistic and accessible, our connection to pop culture, and our desire to take the audience member into consideration within our art, we are often known as a dance company for the people. We have a year long season which this year is complete with a run at the Victory Garden’s Biograph Theatre, Steppenwolf, a collaboration at the Athenaeum, our long running Keeper of the Floor battle series at the Mayne Stage, touring, gigs and most importantly, our Urban Gateways school performances! www.chicagodancecrash.com for more info.

How many dancers do you have? How would you describe their energy?

This year we have nine company dancers, five of which you will see featured at the Gala. Their energy is certainly through the roof and contagious! They feed off of the audience and jokingly don’t like to be outdone by one another, so the energy is constantly building.

As of this school year, Chicago Dance Crash is an Urban Gateways touring group. (Welcome!) Why did you choose to partner with UG to do education outreach? Why is it important for you to offer these performances in schools?

We felt that because of our company’s style and aesthetic, we really had something to offer that would resonate with students of all ages. If kids feel like they can relate to you, they are more likely to absorb what you are saying and be moved by your performance. Our show breaks down the history of dance from ballet to breakdancing and shows how each style has built on or gone against the previous styles. We then show how we can make so much more out of contemporary dance today when we are versed in many styles and their history. We hope that the show opens their minds not only to dance styles they may not have been as familiar with, but also in a greater sense that the show encourages an open mind for appreciating people of all different walks of life and what they might bring to our life. With arts education seemingly always disappearing or at risk of being reduced in schools, it is so important now more than ever to bring performances like ours to schools across Chicago and the suburbs.

How do you think your show impacts the student who see you perform?

We’ve had such a great response from students of all ages! My favorite part of the show is when we answer a couple questions at the end. I love when the students ask about the background of each dancer and how they got started. Our answers vary from a gymnast who started taking ballet at age 8 to an ex college football player or self taught breakdancer who started taking dance when he was forced to as an adult, loved it, and stuck with it. You can literally see each child in the audience finding someone on stage that they favor or relate to, and that kind of specific, positive inspiration is so important for students these days.

“You can literally see each child in the audience finding someone on stage that they favor or relate to, and that kind of specific, positive inspiration is so important for students these days.”

We are thrilled that you’ll be performing at the Art for All Gala on March 21. Can you tell us a little about what you’ll be doing there?

We are closing out the evening with a high energy performance that will feature both choreography and structured freestyle. So you will certainly get a full dose of Crash that covers the spectrum of styles we cover and gives the audience an idea of what we do, all packed into a ten minute show!

What do you want our guests to take away from your performance at the Gala?

When we have one time performances like this, we like to use our window of time to sort of give the audience a sampler platter of what we do. Much like a teaser or a movie trailer, we hope to intrigue the audience into investigating us further.

Any other words for our guests, our supporters, or the arts education community as a whole?

Thank you for supporting the arts and Urban Gateways! Myself and the dancers will be around after the performance and would love to chat with you about your experience in the arts and answer any questions you have about Chicago Dance Crash.

Jessica Deahr, Artistic Director of Chicago Dance Crash, is trained in ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, acrobatics, aerial dance, breakdancing, ballroom and tap. Her commercial based touring performances have led her across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Mexico and Asia. She has also done Chicago based company work with Joel Hall, Instruments of Movement, Inaside Chicago Dance, and independent gigs ranging from the B96 JingleBash to Dance For Life. With her varied training and performance background, eventually finding Chicago Dance Crash created a perfect match. She began working with Chicago Dance Crash in 2007 as a guest artist and then progressed to company member, choreographer, and ultimately Artistic Director. As Artistic Director, she selects company members, handles training, plans the season’s shows and venues, and brings in other artists, choreographers and directors for certain events. Some of her favorite personal works are the group’s most recent evening length, story based shows “Gotham City” and “The Cotton Mouth Club.”

See you at the Art for All Gala!

Check out Chicago Dance Crash at our Urban Gateways / A.R.T. merger launch party back in September:

Thanks to our Art for All Gala sponsors: