Free Performances in Chicago: Dance in the Parks

If you are looking for something to do with your family this summer that is fun, cultural, and (HEY-o) FREE, look no further than Dance in the Parks.

Katie McCann, a college friend of mine (Go, Dawgs!) founded Dance in the Parks when she moved to Chicago a few years ago and realized how inaccessible dance performances are for families in Chicago. By the time you buy the tickets and get the babysitter and pay for parking and grab dinner and drinks, you’re up to about a million dollars for one night out. And that’s before you’ve even seen one pirouette. So Katie decided to bring dance to the neighborhood parks. Each show is about an hour long (perfect for the tiny young’ns) and features professional dancers as well as local kids who are studying dance at neighborhood studios.

You can find more information at or on Facebook at or, you know, just keep reading here…



Tuesday, July 17 – Haas Park, Logan Square

2402 N. Washtenaw Ave., 6:30 PM

Rain venue – Haas Park gym



Thursday, July 19 – Berger Park, Edgewater

6205 N. Sheridan Ave., 6:30 PM

Rain venue – Berger Park Coach House



SATURDAY, July 21 – Bartlett Nature Center in James “Pate” Philip State Park, 2050 W. Stearns Road, Bartlett, IL 60103, 7:00 PM

Rain date – July 28, 7:00 PM

Admission $10 adults/$5 kids under 12


Tuesday, July 24 – Austin Town Hall Park, Austin

5610 West Lake St., 6:30 PM

Rain venue – Austin Town Hall auditorium



Thursday, July 26 – Nichols Park, Hyde Park

1355 E. 53rd St, 6:30 PM

Rain venue – Nichols Park gym



Friday, July 27 – Humboldt Park Boathouse, Humboldt Park

1400 N. Sacramento Blvd., 6:30 PM

Rain or shine



More info about Dance in the Parks and the performances:

Dance in the Parks’ (DIP) fourth season of outdoor performances in city parks begins July 17, 2012.  The company’s mission is to bring free, professional dance performances to new audiences in the most accessible venues in the Chicago-land area—neighborhood parks.  The aim is to expose audiences unfamiliar with dance to the art form as well as to local performers and choreographers in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. The series of performances created by established Chicago choreographers on local professional dancers has expanded from four Chicago performances to five and includes a sixth suburban performance in Bartlett, IL.

Choreographers create new works or re-set existing pieces on the cast of DIP professional dancers.  In 18 rehearsals, the company produces an hour-long program of eclectic styles of dance to present to audiences in the comfort of their neighborhood parks.

The 2012 season includes works of choreography by choreographers Peter Carpenter, Lizzie MacKenzie, Robert McKee, Peff Modelski, Emily Stein, Ronn Stewart, Wade Schaaf, and Laura Wade.  These choreographers have been associated with dance companies including Lucky Plush Productions, River North Dance Chicago, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet (New York City), Zephyr Dance, Foster Dance, Thodos Dance Chicago, Chicago Civic Ballet, and the dance departments at Columbia College and Northwestern University.

The 2012 cast of dancers is Joey Columbus, Katy Fredrick, Elizabeth Luse, Jennifer Wycykal, Aaron Smith, and Dance in the Parks founder Katie McCann.  Joey Columbus is a recent graduate of Warren Township High School. He was a member of Forum Jazz Dance Theater under the direction of Eddy Ocampo throughout his high school career and traveled with them to perform in Austria and to attend the Regional Dance America conference in Montreal.  Jennifer Wycykal, originally from Arlington Heights, is currently company member and rehearsal director for Inaside Dance Chicago.  Katy Fredrick is a founding dancer with Dance in the Parks and has worked most recently with Civic Ballet of Chicago and Madison Ballet. Elizabeth Luse is a former company member of NoMi LaMad Dance and is currently working with Winifred Haun and dancers.  Aaron Smith, a recent graduate of Wayne State University, most recently worked on a project with former Hubbard Street dancer Ron DeJesus and is currently the choreographic assistant to former River North Dance Chicago dancer and award-winning choreographer Stephanie Martinez.

The opening act of each performance features youth performers from studios and student companies in the surrounding neighborhoods.  By offering the youth performance opportunity, young dancers get a chance to perform, and the community has a chance to connect to the dance programs in their neighborhood.  The six 2012 performances include 16 student dance ensembles and day camp groups.  DIP invites private studio companies to participate, but also offers a workshop to Chicago Park District summer dance campers at the performance venue parks. Participating summer day campers open the Act I performances with a dance work created with them by DIP artists. Haas Park, Austin Town Hall Park, and Nichols Park day campers will be performing an Act I performance at their home parks in addition to Extensions Dance Company, Visceral Studio Company, Indian Boundary Park Musical Theater Day Campers, Chicago Ballet Arts, Performing Arts Ltd. Company, Full Effect Dance Company, Tyego Next Generation, Iona Calhoun School of Classical Ballet, Red Clay Youth Ensemble, and Forevermore Dance and Theatre Arts.  In Bartlett, Beth Fowler Dance Company, Duet Dance Academy, Lisa’s School of Dance, and Motions Dance Company will present Act I performances.

DIP was founded by Katie McCann after performing in a similar outdoor project while dance in Kentucky Ballet Theater in Lexington, KY.  After her move to Chicago in 2004, McCann realized that Chicago was missing an opportunity to mix two of its greatest cultural assets: its beautiful parks and its vibrant dance community. “The Chicago dance community performs in very specific places, most of which are downtown theaters where attendance requires fairly high ticket and transportation costs, not to mention child-care costs, and the ever-important missing link – the experience to seek it out and know you’ll be comfortable there as an audience member.  We’re trying to build the bridge between the average citizen and the dance community,” says McCann.  “If we can show them what quality, professional, concert-dance, in a place they’re comfortable hanging out in, for a price entire families can afford, we give people the opportunity to engage with the art form on whatever level they’re most comfortable, and hopefully find something in it they enjoy enough to seek it out, again.”

Chicago and Bartlett Park Districts have generously collaborated with DIP to provide use of park space, temporary stages, and sound systems, without which the performances could not take place. DIP is generously supported by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

For more information, please go to our website

Filed under: News & Views

Tags: Chicago, dance, free, Kids, Parenting

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