It’s a mild and beautiful summer evening on Chicago’s North Side. Thirty-some people have trickled into the vast, light-filled gymnasium at Nicholas Senn High School in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood. “WELCOME TO THE HOME OF THE BULLDOGS,” says a mural opposite the gym’s entrance. The hand-painted block letters accompany a picture of a mean-looking pooch wearing a spiked collar and sailor’s “Dixie cup” hat, surrounded by 31 championship banners and an American flag.
Dancers Gary Schaufeld and Ashley Browne, both of New York troupe Keigwin + Company, wear plain white tops with royal blue bottoms (shorts for Schaufeld, jeans for Browne). The two swear it’s a coincidence. They’ve met with a group of Chicagoans six times before at Senn to create and rehearse choreography to Ravel’s Bolero, for next week’s sixth annual Chicago Dancing Festival. Bolero Chicago will be featured twice: on August 20 during “Chicago Dancing” at the Harris Theater, whose capacity is roughly 1,500; and on August 25 during “Celebration of Dance” at the Frank Gehry–designed Pritzker Pavilion, which can accommodate about ten times as many people.