Category Archives: Dance

Dance Chicago Dance.


Back in 1980, Chicago was still a national hub for music (like LA, Nashville, and New York are today). During that time, Producer/Promoter/Entrepreneur Eddie Thomas ran the influential Dogs of War DJ record association. Based out of Chicago, they were a record pool famous for breaking a number of seminal disco recordings.

Essentially, a record pool is a service that DJs either subscribe to or otherwise sign up for. New records from participating labels are distributed to the DJs as promotional copies. Dogs of War primarily worked with DJs that worked at black clubs on the South Side of Chicago. In the day, they were frequently mentioned in disco write ups in industry papers such as Billboard.


picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook Page

Together, Eddie & the Dogs of War Association produced a TV program pilot called “Dance Chicago Dance”. According to Director Bernie Howard Fryman:

“The year was 1980 and disco was the thing. This is the pilot of the Chicagoland dance show that I shot and directed in cooperation with executive producer Eddie Thomas and “The Dogs of War DJ Association”.

This show was created to feature new music and was to be shot from various discos in the Chicago area.

This show never aired and was dubbed from a Betamax demo of my show. We even cut in a few commercials for realism.”


Featuring a theme song by Al Hudson and One Way, and hosted by radio personality LaDonna Tittle (then at WJPC) and Lisa Hunter (a member of the Dogs of War), the program was an all-star affair. This pilot also features two performances featuring Chicago’s own silver lame-clad disco artist Captain Sky. His extravagant costumes are worth the price of admission. The pilot was shot in suburban Naperville (!) at Valentino’s Disco. It features, notably, a racially mixed crew of dancers.


picture courtesy / Bernie Howard’s Facebook page

The “Dance Chicago Dance” pilot was shot in 1980, well after Steve Dahl’s infamous “Disco Demolition Night” that occurred on July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park. The disco scene in Chicago was a well oiled machine in many ways because Chicago’s Black music scene had dwarfed the rock and pop scenes for much of the mid-20th Century in terms of record sales, record label prominence, and distribution. It was easy to get the music out there.

From the Electrified Delta Blues of Chess Records to the sweet soul of Brunswick Records and Curtom Records (and many labels in between), the baton was passed to disco, and eventually to house. It’s arguable that the prominence of disco music over rock music (often considered to be “white music”) in Chicago (mixed with some good old fashioned racism & homophobia) churned up the Disco Demolition. By 1979, disco had become a universal juggernaut; but its roots were in black and brown communities, as well as in the gay community (a fact that disco shares with house music).

About 50,000 people showed up to the event, during which radio shock jock Steve Dahl was to destroy audience supplied disco records in a massive explosion on the baseball field. But to illustrate the inherent racism, Vince Lawrence, who at the time worked at Comiskey Park as an usher, noted that many of the records were not disco at all. According to an NPR piece, there were:

 “Tyrone Davis records, friggin’ Curtis Mayfield records and Otis Clay records,” he recalls. “Records that were clearly not disco,” but that were by black artists [from Chicago].

Regardless, this video documents clearly that Disco Demolition Night did not, in fact, demolish disco in Chicago. In many ways, disco was just about to get started as something new: House. And that usher at Comiskey Park during the Disco Demolition Night wound up co-writing what is credited as the first truly House record (as opposed to a disco record played in house music clubs), 1984’s “On and On”.

He picked up a lot of good records that night, too. So Dance, Chicago, Dance. Jive on!

Do you Remember how to do the Camel Walk?

camel walk

Do the Camel Walk! Last week on Reclaimed Soul, host Ayana Contreras played this rare local Chicago Blues/Soul record by Bobby Rush (not the former Black Panther turned Politician) from about 1968.

In case you were wondering how to do the then-popular dance, here’s a clip of James Brown asking Sammy Davis, Jr. if he “remembers” how to do it. And he does it. And it’s pretty great.

…But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. James Brown at the time was known for integrating the Camel Walk into his stage show. But the dance had its roots way back in the 1920s as a ragtime dance… So, it was retro even in the 1960s. Good things come back around. Or, so they say. Jive on.


Disco Nights at the Cabrini Green Summer Fest, 1979

Jamming  and juggling on a warm summer’s afternoon in the days when Jane Byrne was mayor… and Disco was king.  Two years later, Jane Byrne moved into Cabrini Green in part as a publicity stunt.

Below, a bit more footage: an unnamed local group can be heard (but not seen) performing a version of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Come Go With Me”. The bottom clip features an assortment of kids with their face painted getting in line for what looks like shaved ice; and at about 50 seconds in, another group singing a version of the Doobie Brothers cut “Minute by Minute”.  (NOTE: the video above is labeled as having occurred in 1977, but the song playing in the background came out in 1979, so I adjusted it here). This video was posted to youtube by John Boguta. Jive on!

Below, more jamming, more good times…

Stand With Haiti!!


Stand with Haiti!! An Evening of Food, Poets (including Lady Terror), Musicians, and Dancers Gathered to Support Those Devastated by the Earthquake in Haiti.  DJ Ayana on the tables.

Thursday, Jan. 21, 6:00pm – 8:45pm

Thorne Auditorium 357 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL

Free admission, donations requested.

Food/Drink: 6-7pm

Program: 7:15-8:45pm

ALL Proceeds will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund

to support the relief effort in Haiti.

Dancing Lesson: Jamaican Import circa 1964


thanks to Mr. Catano for the headsup on this video….

At the bottom of this post, Tony Verity breaks down ska dancing (quite anthropologically, I might add).  Byron Lee and the Dragonaires play backup.  Plays out a bit like the movie Hairspray, only with a Jamaican twist (the original, of course…John Waters kept it gritty, yet sufficiently camp).  What’s Ricki Lake up to these days?

Funny thing, for an era that spawned so many dances (the mashed potato, the madison, the slop, the philly dog, the shing-a-ling, the pony, the jerk, et al), few have such detailed documentation.  Anybody out there remember “The Gouster” (a Chicago flash-in-the-pan dance committed to wax by local group the 5 Duotones)?

Jaema Joy Berry: You Can’t Dance out the Side of Your Mouth

jaemaFrom performing arts space  Links Hall….

Quirky, funny, and sincere, with accompaniment ranging from jazz piano to the sound of tap dancing, Chicago choreographer Jaema Joy Berry explores the simplicity of movement in the context of human and musical interaction.

Friday – Saturday June 19-20, 8pm
Sunday, June 21, 7pm

3435 N Sheffield Ave (at Clark St)

Lakeview/Roscoe Village/Wrigleyville, Chicago


$10 ($5 students)
you can get tickets at the door, over the phone, or from

Tonight. Tango on Chicago Avenue with the A.R.O.M.A. crew…

aroma june

This month A.R.O.M.A. presents “Passions of Argentina” featuring the music, dance and culture of Argentina. Djs Shannon Harris and Joe Bryl along with Argentinean natives, DJs David and Abel Pardo will play Tango and South American influenced rhythms. Live Tango performances by Tango Eclectique’s Maria Alferov and Humberto Decima. Live VJ show by Galina Shevchenko, and more….

Argentine tango is a social dance and a musical genre that originated in the lower-class European immigrant districts of Buenos Aires, and moved to the rest of the world. The modern Tango has a large African influence that was shaped by the candombe ceremonies of former slaves.

The Shrine is Here!



Just what the doctor ordered, as far as I’m concerned…  It’s the long awaited club, The Shrine.  Tonight, a star is born in the South Loop.  Created by Joe Russo (the man that brought us nightlife legend The Funky Buddah Lounge), The Shrine combines top shelf live entertainment, dancers, and music, like the clubs in the days of old.

See you there!


The Shrine

2109 S. Wabash Ave. 60616


photos by Doug Fogelson

The Shrine is coming…


shrinelogo(n.): A new music venue bringing entertainment back to Chicago nightlife, expected to open Memorial Day weekend 2009.

Joseph Russo, The Shrine’s founder and principal, has a number of legendary nightlife establishments in Chicago, including: The Funky Buddha, Thyme Restaurant, and its upscale lounge component Sinibar.  The Shrine’s Myspace page promises: “A fusion of a sensuous nightclub, state-of-the-art live performance space, and high-end lounge, …a next generation nightlife venue.”

I am ready to stop fantasizing about 63rd street back in the day….

excerpted from

“Chicago In Song: Street Signs”

by Robert Pruter (as published in the Beachwood Reporter)

Chicago city limits, that’s what the street sign on the highway read
I’m going to keep moving, until I get to that street called 63rd
…”  from “Hitch Hike” by Marvin Gaye

kitty-kat-adSixty-Third Street was bisected by Cottage Grove Avenue, and for a couple of decades it was the dividing line between the black and white sections of Woodlawn. The black nightclubs first arose on the west side of Cottage Grove, south and north of 63rd, and then a string went from Cottage Grove along 63rd west to South Parkway (now King Drive). When the color line of Woodlawn broke in 1951, black nightclubs then blossomed on the east side of Cottage Grove and east on 63rd to Stony Island Ave.

One of the most famous clubs on 63rd Street was the Kitty Kat, established in 1953, and which featured King Fleming, John Young, Ahmad Jamal and other more art-oriented jazz musicians. On the west side of Cottage Grove could be found another legendary jazz club, Basin Street, with such stellar acts as Johnny Griffin and Eddie Vinson, and about a block south at 64th Street was the Pershing Hotel complex of venues – the ballroom, the first-floor lounge and the basement club called Budland, which at first was a jazz club featuring such acts as Arnett Cobb, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday, but later was booking rhythm and blues acts.

On the west side of the Cottage Grove was the Trianon Ballroom, where teenagers saw huge rhythm and blues stage shows, and McKie’s Lounge, which booked a host of great sax blowers. Further east on 63rd Street was the famed Crown Propeller Lounge, which booked both jazz and rhythm and blues acts. The 63rd-Cottage Grove intersection was anchored by the largest theater on the South Side, the Tivoli, which put on rhythm and blues shows as well.

The 63rd Street Stroll also emerged as the South Side’s new “sin strip” during this period. The attraction of the area was “the forbidden,” where one could find not only jazz and rhythm and blues, but smoking, drinking, dope dealing and women. The area attracted not only ardent music fans, both black and white, but also those on the lookout for “action.”

My most rhythmic sisters, The Shrine is holding open auditions for dancers next weekend (I wanted to give you time to prep)…. Here’s the deal:

We invite young, passionate, creative female dancers willing to commit to four to six short performances a week (2-3 nights) to participate in our open call process.

Location and Time:

Visceral Dance Studio
2820 N. Elston Ave
12pm, April 11th, 2009


– Female Dancers who are 21 years of age or older by May 15th, 2009
-Must provide one non-returnable headshot and one non-returnable full-body shot including height and weight (5″x7″ or larger preferred). Photos are used for identification purposes.
-Professional photo is not mandatory. Photos should be a current representation of what you look like or will look like at the audition.
-No street shoes.

What we’re looking for:

– Athletic build, personality, energy, enthusiasm!
-Professionalism and maturity
-Background in african, modern, or jazz a plus
-Ability to improvise with confidence
-Ability to pick up dance choreography quickly
-Consistent positive attitude
-Strong teamwork skills

Freedom of Speech and Movement Acts


Presented in conjunction with Saudade… Freedom of Speech and Movement: a dance workshop at Hull-House Museum:

Freedom of Speech and Movement Acts Movement Workshop with Taisha Pagget of the David Roussève/REALITY dance company

Thursday, March 12, 12-1:30 p.m.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S. Halsted Ave.

This workshop is free and open to the public- dancers and non-dancers alike.

The dance studio is a social space, where the problems of movement and choreography bring up problems of authority, hierarchy, participation and decision-making. This movement workshop will take up these questions, offering tools and exercises that develop creative freedom in our bodies, as both dancers and citizens acting within larger collective structures.

Jane Adams Hull-House Museum Art & Democracy Series
For more information or to RSVP: 312.413.5353 (Jane Adams Hull-House Museum)