The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) and the Chicago Dancemakers Forum partnered 2015-17 to produce the Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI) Chicago with funding from The Reva and David Logan Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Chicago Park District, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. RDDI Chicago was designed to support professional development for Chicago-based dance makers, build connections that will nourish dance artists, and develop the overall capacity and infrastructure of the Chicago dance community. 

RDDI was designed to maximize local and regional support for dance artists by catalyzing existing resources and by redefining the relationship between artist, presenter, and community. RDDI focused on increasing the capacity of dance artists by strengthening the articulation of work, its inspirations and processes, and by developing presenter relationships and new markets.


The first pilot project of the RDDI took place in Seattle in August of 2004. Additional regional projects have taken place in the San Francisco Bay area; Portland, Oregon; New England; and Minnesota. Each RDDI Lab is developed for the unique needs of the nearby dance community through partnerships with regional dance leaders.

Working with an advisory group of local partners, CDF and NEFA designed RDDI Chicago activities (listed below) specifically to suit the needs and assets of local artists. Any questions, please contact Shawn Lent at


Elevate Chicago Dance 2017 was a citywide festival with public performances and invited studio showings at ten creative spaces around the city, featuring forty Chicago choreographers and dance companies.  
Elevate also convened a group of about forty local, regional and national colleagues in the dance field – professionals who support dance through presenting, residencies, and related work. The focused three-day program provided them with a special opportunity to experience a wide range of Chicago-based dance, have direct exchanges with the artists, and discuss ways to leverage their individual and collective resources to contribute to a healthy dance field. 
Elevate Chicago Dance marked the culmination of a multi-year Regional Dance Development Initiative produced by Chicago Dancemakers Forum and New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).  It is made possible with funding from Reva and David Logan Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Chicago Park District/Night Out in the Parks, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, PERT Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation through NEFA’s National Dance Project.

Please click here for more information.


The Chicago Dance Lab was an immersive 12-day program that took place from July 27-August 8, 2016 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A national panel selected 12 artists who represented multiple neighborhoods across the greater Chicago area and a broad range of career stages and dance disciplines including: African, butoh, burlesque, contemporary, dance on film, improvisation, interdisciplinary, and tap. During the Dance Lab, participants worked with faculty from around the U.S. to clarify goals, and strategies, align communications about their work with their artistic practice and strengthen partnerships.


Chicago Dance Lab Project Director and Advisor: Michèle Steinwald

Chicago Dance Lab Logistics Coordinator: Shawn Lent

RDDI Chicago Dance Lab Artists:

Chicago Dance Lab Faculty:

  • Rob Bailis – Associate Director, Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley, CA

  • Peter DiMuro – Artistic/Creative Director, Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion and Executive Director, The Dance Complex, Boston, MA

  • Dayna Hanson – Choreographer, Seattle, WA

  • David Sheingold – Independent Consultant, Brooklyn, NY

  • Marýa Wethers – Independent Manager, Producer & Curator, Brooklyn, NY

  • Eva Yaa Asantewaa – arts critic, blogger, podcaster, New York, NY


In addition to the Chicago Dance Lab, a series of public events and programs took place throughout the Chicago area in 2016 and 2017. Activities were designed to address the specific needs of Chicago’s many dance communities brought to light during the in-depth planning phase for the Lab, and were adapted to address additional questions and topics that arose during the Lab itself. In addition to providing a broader base of Chicago dance artists with growth and learning opportunities, activities served to connect dance artists and strengthen the community. 

Choreographic Workshop with Fana Tshabalala 7/30/2017 at Ballet Chicago

In partnership with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, CDF offered a choreographic workshop led by a visiting artist from South Africa. Location: Hubbard Street Dance Center.


Workshop with Tere O’Connor 4/23/2016 at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

This full-day workshop with guest artist Here O’Connor focused on elemental aspects of choreographic process and the attendant metaphors and philosophies implied through practice. Participants initiated the construction of a highly individualized set of tools to find ways of locating meaning in dance on its own terms. Each student created problem-solving systems based on the structure of his/her own thought process and pursued the application of these. They questioned the assumptions or choreographic “default settings” of dance history and present-day tropes, re-contextualizing these through the dual lenses of personal research and contemporary culture. The group discussed ideas around abstraction and narrative, intentionality, internal sources’ exertion on the surface of their work, and many other concepts born of their exploration.

Building a Sustainable Life as an Artist 6/17-18/2016 at Defibrillator Performance Gallery

Choreographer, writer and thought leader Andrew Simonet led this workshop based on the concepts and practices in his book “Making Your Life as an Artist”. Andrew shared the tools and principles that artists have used to thrive (everything he’s learned over the past ten years). The group built a realistic, un-complainy conversation that saw the challenges but also acknowledged that their skills are more than up to the task. They explored some specific, practical work (planning, writing about our work) and some big picture thinking and looked at the specific challenges facing dance artists: the demands of creating and producing the work, funding and touring cycles, and a supposedly embodied life that too often ends up in front of a laptop for eight hours.


Dance Making: Physicality & Context: Bebe Miller 9/17/2016 at the Logan Center for the Arts

This workshop with guest artist Bebe Miller had participants look toward crafting their dance making to locate themselves in their current times, finding context inside their physicality. Participants considered how to listen to the weight of a gesture, how to qualify actions mindful of context, and how to expand into one’s unique articulate range of action. The practice began with a warm up that tuned the body’s physical and expressive scale. The group continued with improvisation and choreographic scores, working with full-bodied attention to detail and drive, their weight at risk.

RDDI Chicago Artist/Presenter Symposium 10/8/2016 at High Concept Labs

Held at partner organization High Concept Labs, this full-day event was designed to prompt interaction, dialogue and outside-the-lines thinking about dance performance and presentation. The symposium is one of multiple public programs planned by CDF as part of the Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI), the multi-layered, joint initiative supported the professional development of Chicago-based dancemakers, and stimulates networking and partnerships that strengthen the field of dance in Chicago. Values: Connect artists and presenters, explore new ways to think about presenting dance. Shift thinking about presentation from transaction arrangement to  relationship/partnership. The symposium included:

  • Seven panelists with diverse perspectives (Shoshona Currier, Kevin Iega Jeff, Michelle Kranicke, Emily Hooper Lansana, Bill Michel: Executive Director of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Joseph Ravens: Performance Artist and Founder of Defibrillator Performance Gallery, and visiting artist Emily Johnson) exploring specific creative approaches these partners have used to collaborate to create and present dance, in spaces ranging from traditional proscenium theater spaces to storefront galleries.

  • Networking Lunch

  • Steven Wang, Executive Director at High Concept Labs, presenting the Sponsored Artist Program at HCL. Performance by HCL 2016 Sponsored Artist, Tap Dancer/Hip Hop artist Groundhog.

  • Visiting dance artist and choreographer Dahlia Nayar presenting an example of her success in relationship-building with performance presenters, as well as her creative approach to developing, securing and executing national touring for their works.

  • Carrie Hanson, Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms, and -Yolanda Cesta Cursach, Associate Director of Performance Programs at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, revealing the curatorial process and multiple relationships that lead to the production of Power Goes.

The Everyday Extraordinary Body 1/17/2017 at Gallery 400/UIC

CDF curated a panel discussion in partnership with Gallery 400, exploring the work of Chicago-based artists and their relationship to the influence of Yvonne Rainer. The conversation investigated the themes of temporality, political charge of the body, role of voice, process and labor, as they relates to movement. Featured panelists included CDF Lab Artists Onye Ozuzu, dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Columbia College Chicago; Ginger Krebs, current BOLT artist-in-residence; and Michelle Kranicke, artistic director of Zephyr Dance, with Ira Murfin, Northwestern PHD candidate, as moderator.


Movement From Life Workshop 2/11/2017 at Gallery 400/UIC

In partnership with Gallery 400, CDF offered a movement workshop with artist Victoria Bradford that was designed for those interested in the relationship between mark making and movement in their work. Participants explored the art of gesture drawing, transformed those markings into movement, and anchored the movement in space and the everyday.

The Chicago Dance Lab Summer 2016, Elevate Chicago Dance (October 2017, and multiple public programs are part of the Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI) of the National Dance Project (NDP). NDP, now in its 19th year of implementation, is a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. NDP provides grants for the production and touring of contemporary dance work by regionally and nationally significant artists in the United States and beyond.



In 2015, the RDDI Chicago Planning  Advisory Committee included:

Brett Batterson: Executive Director, The Auditorium Theater

Heidi Coleman: Director of University Theater, Undergraduate Studies, Theater and Performance Studies, The University of Chicago

*Shoni Currier: Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago

Yolanda Cursach: Associate Director of Performance, Museum of Contempory Art Chicago

Leigh Fagin: Associate Director for University Arts Engagement, The University of Chicago

*Ginger Farley: Executive Director, Chicago Dancemakers Forum

Joan Gray: President Muntu Dance Theater of Chicago

Heather Hartley: Executive Director, Audience Architects

*Kevin Iega Jeff: Artistic Director, Deeply Rooted Productions 

Nicole Jolly: Chicago Park District

Scott Lundius: Director of Education, Old Town School of Folk Music

Meida McNeal: Arts & Culture Manager, Chicago Park District

Shirley Mordine: Artistic Director, Mordine and Company Dance Theater

*Onye Ozuzu: Chair, Dance Department, Dance Center of Columba College Chicago

Jason Palmquist: Executive Director, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Jorge Perez: Executive Director, Ensemble Espanol

Julia Rhoads: Artistic Director, Lucky Plush Productions

Laura Samson: Director Global Corporate  Citienship, The Boeing Company

*Peter Taub: Director of Performance Programs, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Michael Tiknis: President and Managing Director, Harris Theater for Music & Dance

*Zac Whittenburg: Director of Communications, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago


* denotes CDF consortium member