Alexander just announced the location and features of the new American Rhythm Center, a cooperative studio and office space he’s been working to establish for several years. The location is a spot that no less than five Reader writers (including me) put on their 2011 Best of Chicago lists: the Fine Arts Building at 410 S. Michigan. The ARC’s three new or remodeled studios should be in limited use by late July, in conjunction with CHRP’s annual Rhythm World Festival.
Question is, if you build it out, will they come? Though these spaces will be used for rehearsal by some of CHRP’s eight partners, they’re also earmarked for dance classes. Alexander clearly thinks the public will take an interest. “Making art has become more nourishing than watching others make art,” he says in a press release. That might sound inflammatory to some arts groups, but it’s also good news in the long run. In February 2011, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago published an NEA report showing, among other things, that taking classes in the arts produces arts consumers.
Arts education is also a potential source of income for arts groups, at a time when both ticket sales and public and private contributions are dwindling. ARC’s aim, Alexander says, is to attract “students from Chicago, the U.S. and around the world to study dance in Chicago’s emerging dance corridor.” Make no little plans.
What is the “emerging dance corridor”? Alexander says via e-mail that it runs roughly from 800 N. Michigan to 1300 S. Michigan. Some outliers, such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (1147 W. Jackson) and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn), are also included. Noteworthy: those two spaces have affordable parking nearby. The Fine Arts Building, not so much. Of course, public transit is good for the environment. And walking and biking are good for body and soul.
The ARC partnership includes six dance groups: CHRP, of course, as well as Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Giordano Dance Chicago, Kalapriya, Luna Negra Dance Theater, and River North Dance Theater. (The other three are the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, and Ping Pong Productions, which "facilitates collaborations between Chinese and international artists.") When I asked Alexander how they were chosen, he replied that they were already CHRP partners—his organization had previously established relationships with “most of the companies prior to this project. . . . Long-term collaborations are never easy, and we thought it made sense to start with existing partners.
“There is still room at the ‘inn,’” Alexander added. “It is not a closed environment. Others are welcome to come in and participate.”