Chicago Human Rhythm Project
Tap dance is an America's contribution to global culture. Tap fused African and Irish rhythmic and dance traditions into a new and living art form. Tap evolved over three centuries and emerged as a recognizable and distinct dance form in minstrel shows, vaudeville, Broadway and during the Golden Age of movie musicals, jazz clubs and repertory companies. Some of America's most enduring cultural icons (Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, the Nicholas Brothers and Gregory Hines et al) emerged from this timeless tradition. Broadway phenomenon Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, choreographed by Savion Glover, revolutionized the way audiences perceived tap. A classic American dance, evoking memories of top hats and canes, was reinvented as a contemporary, dynamic and relevant art form. But before Noise, Funk burst onto the scene, tap repertory companies and festivals were laying a broader foundation for tap dance presentation.
CHRP was the first tap festival to evolve into a year-round presenter of tap and percussive dance and continues to lead the field by presenting concerts, education programs, year-round outreach and conferences for the field. CHRP advocates for the art form and designs programs that empower artists and strengthen communities through Sustained, Integrated, Equitable, Cultural Investments.
Photo by Kristie Kahns Photography
Chicago Human Rhythm Project builds community through American tap and contemporary percussive arts in world class, innovative performance, education and outreach programs. Percussive dance is one of the oldest forms of human expression and tap dance is America's contribution to the evolution of this ancient art. Chicago Human Rhythm Project celebrates the primal impulse to make rhythm and presents programs throughout the year that bring diverse individuals and communities together to share this common experience.
CHRP presents four annual performance/education programs at venues around Chicago including The DuSable Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, the historic Jazz Showcase, the Cindy Pritzker Theater and the Fine Arts Building ! CHRP's resident performance and education ensemble - BAM! - provides after school arts education classes at three elementary schools including St. Sabina, Paul Revere and Bronzeville Lighthouse. BAM! also performs its acclaimed lecture demonstration - We All Got Rhythm - throughout Chicago which has been seen by more than 60,000 school children over the last five years. We dance together - we create together - we are moving forward - together!
Co-founded in 1988 by Lane Alexander and Kelly Michaels, CHRP began as a summer festival at the Gus Giordano Dance Center in Evanston, Illinois with a single performance at Northwestern University. CHRP donated proceeds from the concert to Open Hand/Chicago, a meals-on-wheels program serving people affected by HIV/AIDS. Fifty-two students attended the classes and over 200 tap and rhythmic dance enthusiasts attended the benefit concert. CHRP's summer festival is now the oldest and most comprehensive annual tap festival in the world while CHRP has evolved to become the first year round presenter of concert tap and contemporary percussive dance in the world.
CHRP has grown from presenting performances in small venues over two days of classes to presenting in large and mid-sized venues over twelve months of residencies, workshops and classes at community-centered locations. Attendance in all concert, education and outreach programs reached a new high of 40,000 in 2007 while combined earned income, contributed and in-kind contributions exceeded one million dollars for the first time. As of 2022, CHRP will have awarded $350,000 in scholarships to deserving and talented youths for summer study programs over a period of 27 years.
CHRP received an Emmy nomination, as well as national airings, for its co-production with Chicago's PBS affiliate, WTTW, of JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance, the documentary about tap dance at the end of the 20th century. National publications like Dance Magazine and the New York Times have cited CHRP for leadership/innovation in the field and in 2007 CHRP earned a National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpieces Grant administered by Illinois Arts Council. Chicago Human Rhythm Project celebrates and preserves the American art of tap dance through performances, teaching, the creation of new work and documentation. Through its programs, CHRP promotes cultural diversity, emphasizing collaboration and partnership among Chicago artists and Chicago communities.