Some people might think that dancing starts with the feet, but for the Inspiración Dance Chicago, dance is a function that depends on a lot more than toes, tendons, heels, and ankles. The feet carry out what the brain, heart and soul inspire. Gene Kelly sang it best. “Gotta dance” isn’t just a song, it’s a summons, and for the 12 members of Inspiración Dance Chicago, coming together as a group to train, rehearse, and perform is more than a way for one dozen pairs of feet to move together at the same time to the same beat. It’s also a call to action that sometimes takes place on the stage, sometimes the rehearsal hall, but just as often, it happens when they’re mentoring young dancers as a fusion of diverse people into a unit that moves in perfect step because its diversity allows for unity.
IDC offers free and low-cost dance instruction programs to young people and adults at Loyola University, Lane Tech High School, and Senn High School. The adult team members rehearse to master the challenging choreography several hours a week and also find the time to train, support, and mentor the young dancers. It’s a labor of love gladly given, but the expense of travel, costuming and training taxes their financial resources. Although there is a fee-based payment system for the community classes, the income doesn’t cover the costs of the program, which is why IDC needs support from donors who care about the beneficial effects that dance provides for young people. To continue their work, they’ve mounted an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,500. With the money raised from crowdfunding backers, Inspiracion Dance Chicago can purchase costumes for the college and adult team and cover the travel costs for the adult team’s performance and training at the San Francisco Salsa Congress. That adult training will work its way back to the youth dancers, as the teachers bring new ideas back from the Congress.
For IDC founder and principal dancer Chris Manning, the child of a military family (he’s currently writing his memoirs with the working title Army Brat), dance is something that comes out of the many cultures and countries that formed his youth. He fell under the breakdancing spell in the 1980s, and upon returning to the United States, he began performing with a hip-hop dance group in high school. College introduced him to salsa but the absence of a Latin dance instructor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville didn’t hold him back. He just kept working and having fun with his Panamanian and Puerto Rican friends. When he began his graduate studies at Northwestern University, he began to study other dance forms including West African, jazz, floor barre, and back to hip hop. After becoming artistic director of the Latin Street Dance Company, Manning’s work began to integrate non-Latin dance movement with Latin dance, resulting in a more narrative-driven choreography. In 2013, he founded Inspiración Dance Chicago.
His colleague Julie Gerenrot, IDC’s treasurer and principal dancer, hails from Kiev, Ukraine, and came to the United States with her family at the age of six with a background that was originally in formal dance, but expanded to include training in ballet, jazz, modern, and hip hop. When she began her apprenticeship in 2010 with Christopher Manning, she added Latin dance training to her repertoire.
Together with the other members of the IDC, Manning and Gerenrot believe in the power of dance, and you are invited to be a partner.