On Wednesday, Aug. 2, Austin residents will see the park adjacent to Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., turn into a lively dance floor for people of all ages practicing their best line dance steps.
“[Front Porch Arts Center] is thinking about this party as being a true summertime experience that feels like gathering with friends in the backyard for a barbecue,” said John Rich, theater and dance coordinator for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This year, Front Porch Arts Center partnered with DCASE to create Austin’s SummerDance event, inviting Austin residents to get moving and dancing.
“Line dancing is the way that everybody can participate. You learn the dance as the music is playing,” Rich said.
Starting at 4:30 p.m., attendees can participate in creative activities for all ages, including yard games. Attendees are also invited to paint on panels that will be used to create a “community quilt” to be placed at Front Porch Arts Center new location at 5941 W. Chicago Ave. Music will play throughout the event and everyone is encouraged to bring a blanket or a chair, invite a friend and enjoy a picnic followed by dancing.
At 5:30 p.m., people of all ages are invited to line dance, learning “Old Cool” line dance steps to classics such as the “Cupid Shuffle” and “New Skool” dances – viral dances that young generations learn through social media.
This summer, there will be five neighborhood events, including one in Austin. On Aug. 23, Chicago SummerDance will pop up at Douglass Park, 1401 S. Sacramento Blvd., in North Lawndale. The events are co-designed with community-based cultural and arts organizations, such as Front Porch Arts Center in Austin and The Firehouse Community Arts Center in North Lawndale. The partnership with community organizations began in 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic, as DCASE reimagined these events to become mini neighborhood festivals where neighbors can connect through music and dance.
“They’re still free dance lessons and there’s live music or a DJ but it has more of a neighborhood party vibe, or a small pop-up festival vibe,” Rich said. “And it was really key in that moment to think about co-creating these projects with neighborhood partners.”
Chicago SummerDance neighborhood events are an open invitation for families and people of all ages to learn from professional dancers, listen to live music, celebrate their culture, meet their neighbors, enjoy creative activities and visit their local parks.
“Everyone is welcome regardless of how you think about yourself as a dancer,” Rich said. “It’s really a neighborhood party with dance. And we want everybody to dance, we want everybody to experience the joy from dance, but you don’t have to dance to come to the party.”
Additionally, Chicago SummerDance brings free dance lessons and live music to emblematic parks like Grant Park for Chicagoans and visitors alike. For the full schedule of free events, visit Chicagosummerdance.org.
“It’s really an opportunity for community,” Rich said. “Maybe that’s a neighborhood community, maybe it’s the community of Chicago broadly, to come together and to move to experience physical wellness and joy.”