The instructors at Michiana Dance believe that beginning dancers will learn faster, feel looser, and move better when instructed alone rather than around a group of equally uncomfortable strangers. During private lessons, students learn a variety of dances such as ballroom, West Coast swing, country two-step, or Latin dances as personalized, one-on-one feedback helps them sharpen their technique and fix mistakes quickly. The instructors can also prepare brides, grooms, and wedding parties for the dance floor, helping turn first dances into jaw-dropping performances and chicken dances in to tear-jerking manifestations of grace.
The instructors of Origins Dance Academy have traveled far and wide to learn and practice their craft, from choreographing in Los Angeles to dancing in prestigious European and Canadian ballet companies to appearing in area musicals. That wide range of experience allows them to teach youngsters in a wide variety of classes, including tap, ballet, and hip-hop. Origins also occasionally presents its students in performances and sends them to competitions judged by technique, difficulty, and how well the dancers perform sequences from Swan Lake while partnered with real swans.
After appearing as Ted's band on eight seasons of Scrubs, The Blanks take center stage to regale audiences with harmonious a cappella songs and quirky sketch routines. A talented quartet that channels the eccentric goofiness of Monty Python and The Three Stooges' raffish disregard for pies, The Blanks entertain audiences with vocal renditions of TV theme songs, commercial jingles, and goofy skits. The family-friendly troupe takes on pop-culture icons and a host of miscellany with the unspoken goal of robbing the laughter hidden in audiences' purses. Audience members who arrive early can peruse the historic 1882 opera house, whose recent facelifts have left it with a permanent smile and plush amenities.
Chicago Elevated, run by effusive improv veteran Margaret Hicks, leads curious charges on eclectic group, private, and custom tours of the city. Jaunts lead natives and tourists alike through the city’s oft-overlooked nooks and crannies as Hicks’s jovial voice narrates every step, shedding light on secret areas and easily overlooked historic sites. Her pedway tour sojourns into Chicago’s tiled subterranean antecity, where retailers, restaurants, and mole people mingle. Tours explore sites of famous disasters, visit the ghostly red-light district that once stretched below what is now Printer’s Row, and gaze at downtown’s ornate architecture from the riverwalk.
Stationed in Wrigleyville after college, Hicks accrued the healthy sense of humor and comedic timing that pepper each tour at Second City, iO, and other theaters. Though she attempted a move to New York City, Hicks soon discovered she couldn’t stay away from Chicago’s majestic skyline or the skyscrapers’ subtly receding hairlines. A stint in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s docent program, as well as acting as a tour guide for six years, arm her with insider’s knowledge that soon transfers to listeners’ brains.
Chicago Sinfonietta was already markedly different from its counterparts when it played its first notes in 1987. Its founder and conductor Paul Freeman wanted to create a symphony that actually reflected the community in which it existed. The ensemble he formed brought together musicians from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, who interpreted both classical pieces and forgotten compositions from composers of color. His concept proved successful—the symphony toured Europe, played the Kennedy Center twice, and produced 14 albums, all while tunefully demonstrating the universality of music.
Today, Chicago Sinfonietta continues to perform unique programs, and supports music education and professional development opportunities for members of underrepresented communities. Freeman retired from his post at the end of the 2011 season, passing the reins new music director Mei-Ann Chen, but his legacy lives on in the music of performers he helped get started, including classical-music legend Yo-Yo Ma.