Chicago Dance Medium History

The Chicago Dance Medium first introduced dance to children in Chicago Public Schools. It was 1974, a time when Arts Education was not in fashion, and most students had limited exposure to the dance art form. One goal of the company was to make dance as available to children as visual arts and music. Over the years, CDM has involved more than 300,000 community members in dance, as students, performers, and audience members.

In the early years, CDM brought classic children's stories to life. Young audiences were able to see stories they had read, such as The Velveteen Rabbit and The Red Shoes move dimensionally through space. As the audience took their seats, dancers were warming up on stage. Once everyone was seated, a narrator invited the audience on a pre-performance journey as a "sneak preview" of what goes on behind the curtain. This would grab and inspire audiences so deeply that it became a pre-performance ritual for all Chicago Dance Medium performances going forward.

Over time, CDM accommodated the growing needs of communities in the Chicago area. Seeking to foster communication between diverse groups of people, CDM reached out to minority groups, students in Special Education, students with disabilities (hearing impaired) and financially disadvantaged populations. Starting with the discipline of learning the precision of technique and collaborating in the choreographic process, community members became aware of what is possible and all the things they could be.

Early in the 1990's, CDM expanded their creative endeavors to include multi-disciplinary art forms. CDM integrated visual art, language (poetry), music and dance into the school's curriculum. The first project, Colors That Bend, was inspired by the poems and drawings in visual artist Wassily Kandinsky's book, "Sounds", and encouraged collaboration between other professional artists.

This led to other projects focusing on the multi-disciplinary concepts, including video and photography, and residencies with other organizations.

Early 1990's

  • Collaborated with teenagers from Chicago's (inner city) Foreman High School to promote self-exploration and creative expression. Using images from American Artist, Robert Longo's series Men in Cities, they investigated the facades, interiors and entrapments of their lives.


  • Light and Shadow, the exploration of light and shadow.
  • The Journey (Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad), the study of slavery in America through the eyes and images of American Artist Jacob Lawrence.


  • Off the Wall, the history of Mexico using the life and murals of Diego Rivera.


  • The Dragon's Tale, a multi-media performance project, reflecting the essence of China.


  • Reunion, the study of the Bridgeport neighborhood.


  • Who We Are, the study of character traits for upper grades.


  • In Between, paralleling the great Chicago Fire with the tragedy of 9/11.

CDM residences were funded by the Illinois Arts Council for upper grade students at the Healy School in the Bridgeport neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side. In the late 80's, CDM also created the Kinzie Dance Project, a performance company of young hearing impaired students from Kinzie School.

From 1994-2004 the dance company worked with C.A.P.E., The Chicago Arts Partners in Education, integrating dance and video with math and science for 5th and 8th graders at the Mark Sheridan Math and Science Academy in Chicago.

In 1979, in addition to their education outreach programming, CDM established the Dancespace, their home studio and Performance Center in Chicago's historic Fine Arts Building. Company members taught and created new works for the general public and presented concerts in numerous communities, performing a repertoire of works by Artistic Director Rosemary Doolas and other noted Chicago Choreographers. Recognized for its "marvelous theatricality" (Chicago Tribune) and "fascinating imagery" (Chicago Sun-Times), the company performed at Moming Dance and Arts Center, The Beverly Arts Center, Columbia College Dance Center, Northwestern University in Evanston, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Hope College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the New Regal Theater and the Harold Washington Library Theater in Chicago.

In 1996, CDM moved from the Dancespace to become Artists-In-Residence at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center located in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. Company members taught classes for adults and children and created "Raw Footage" a community intergenerational dance project, creating and performing new works for every day people and professional dancers form the Chicago area. During their stay at Lincoln Park, CDM created the Ruth Page award wining "Birthmarks", an evening long multi-media performance piece.

In April 2003, CDM became an Arts Partner with the Chicago Park District at Seward Park in the Cabrini Green Neighborhood on Chicago's near north side. The company has recreated the dance curriculum they established at the The Lincoln Park Cultural Center for this under served community and is working hard to meet the challenge.

In January 2012, CDM relocated to the Chicago Park District's River Park on the North Side. CDM loves their new location and have been welcomed by the neighborhood. CDM performed at the Ronan Park Summer Concert Series in 2012.

The Chicago Dance Medium's mission is to open individuals to the possibilities within themselves using dance as the catalyst.

From its residence at River Park, the Chicago Dance Medium continues to serve out this mission and create new and exciting ways to involve community members in dance.



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