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Jul 30, 2019

This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra chats with Harriet Ross and Mark Gomez, who both play vital roles in running Chicago Dance United’s Dance for Life event. Dance for Life is a fundraiser performance featuring a united front of dance companies from across Chicago, raising money for “The Dancers’ Fund.” This fund, which was founded in 1994 by Ross, makes direct grants to individuals in the dance world suffering from debilitating injuries or illnesses. Since Dance for Life launched in 1994, over $6 million has been raised in support of the dance community.

Ross, Co-Founder of Dance for Life, and Gomez, Co-Chair of Dance for Life, spend the podcast giving a deep-dive on the history of the event, how the event has evolved over the years, and where the event is headed in the future. Harriet also briefly provides some commentary on her career, including how it felt to be named 2007 Chicagoan of the Year and some highlights on her run as General Manager of The Joffrey Ballet. Gomez and Ross are passionate about the craft of dance and the good of dancers, and that passion permeates this conversation, revolving around this incredible fundraising event.


Moving Quotes:

“We discovered dancers are powerful people, which we didn’t know and we now know. It’s a rather exciting thing to see people who thought they didn’t have a voice because they don’t speak find out we do have quite a voice."

“I don’t recognize failure. I always think I’m going to find something good coming out of it. If you ask me about a failure, I can’t even tell you about one. Because, to me, it was going to be good in the end. That’s how a dancer has to be."

“Everybody just gives. Everybody gives their art, their talent. And they’re fairly ego-less, for what you would assume would be an ego-driven art form. But it’s not."

“There’s always going to be opportunity to show you what’s going on in the world [through dance] and to express yourself and to bring questions. I feel like that’s what art does. It’s supposed to get you thinking about [questions like] — What was that about? What does that mean? How do I relate to that?"

“If [performers] can’t earn a living as dancers because of an injury of some kind, we are there for them. We will help them through that time… You send your bills. We pay your bills."

“[Dance for Life] is such a great mission… And the dance community is so behind it. The dancers love being a part of it and being together, and if you were backstage, you’d see all of the dancers on the side, watching the other people dance. It’s very exciting… So I wanted to keep that going and growing."


Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

4:05: Harriet and Mark share about the creation of Dance for Life and how this immensely successful event has driven camaraderie among dance companies across Chicago.

10:19: Harriet discusses how much money is typically raised during an event like Dance for Life, and Mark highlights any new changes taking place this year.

14:33: Harriet briefly describes the thrill of being chosen as 2007 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine.

15:43: Harriet and Mark discuss their goals for Dance for Life and take some time to lay out the mission of the event.

19:06: Harriet and Mark quote the Chicago Dancers United mission statement and mention some other events that are conducted by the organization.

22:11: Harriet discusses how dancers must view failure differently than many other people.

23:48: Harriet shares what she was most proud of during her stint as General Manager of The Joffrey Ballet.

25:56: Harriet and Mark weigh in on the importance of dance for younger generations and the desire for dance to be more visible and recognized.

27:46: Harriet and Mark speak to the importance of emerging technology when it comes to awareness around the art of dance — particularly social media.

30:12: Mark casts some vision for Dance for Life, and Harriet describes what’s next for her in her life journey.


Bullet List of Resources – 

Harriet Ross

Mark Gomez

Dance for Life