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Feb 4, 2020

This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra speaks with John Schmitz, Co-Founder and Artistic Producer of Dance Chicago. John — a decades-long arts icon within the Chicago arts community — has been producing dance events for 35 years, helping build bridges between artists and dance organizations both domestically and internationally. He has also been the recipient of Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoan of the Year” award, a Ruth Page Award for “Outstanding Contribution to the Dance Community,” and several others. Schmitz also serves as President of the Board of Athenaeum Theatre Productions.

John’s driving force in all he does is the belief that dance can drive emotional transformation, and as he mentions on the podcast, he hopes that performance attendees will have a brighter outlook on life as they leave the theater than when they first arrived. On the podcast, John spends time describing how his dance festival carries that sole mission — to improve others’ lives through dance — and explains how his own life has been captivated and improved by that very same craft.

Moving Quotes:

“Dance is your birthright. You were born to move. And if you can only move one finger, this is a dance."

“You have to close one door before another one opens."

[On being entrepreneurial in the dance industry] “I was used to seeing miracles in dance — I started dancing at the age of 30. It was all so crazy anyway, so why not try? And the doors kept opening."

 “We want people feeling better about their lives when they leave the theater than when they came in."

“We need things that uplift the spirit and make people want to get up and go out and act."

 “We don’t need as much money to run the festival anymore, especially from a marketing perspective. The changes in communication — the changes in technology — all are allowing the dance festival to continue to operate.”

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

3:10: John discusses how his dance festival — Dance Chicago — came to be and shares about the host theater for his festival.

8:17: John retells his own journey in dance, from the “disturbing” discontent he felt after witnessing a dance performance for the first time to the inception of Dance Chicago.

11:16: Schmitz describes what differentiates Dance Chicago from other dance festivals.

14:48: Schmitz discusses his “secret sauce” for thinking entrepreneurially in the dance industry — a belief in the impossible.

16:16: John shares how Dance Chicago was forced to reinvent itself during the 2008 Financial Crisis and how it was made better for it.

19:49: John describes what it takes to put together a great dance production team and what motivates his own team to put their best foot forward every day.

23:09: John explains how, even through numerous dips and valleys, his organization has managed to survive for 25 years.

24:19: Schmitz speaks on the pride he takes in being a purveyor of the arts and using his talents to make others’ lives better.

25:11: Schmitz shares some practical advice for individuals who may want to pursue a career in the dance industry while not directly dancing.

26:55: John discusses some big goals he’d like to have a part in accomplishing within the dance industry.

Bullet List of Resources – 

John Schmitz


Athenaeum Theater


Dance Chicago