Over the past eight years, the Chicago Dancing Festival has established itself as the biggest event of its kind in the Midwest. That’s because it was founded with the idea that its job is to bring dance to the masses. “We have a cultural responsibility,” says Jay Franke, who started the free five-day festival with choreographer Lar Lubovitch in 2006. “If we can’t make this work accessible to everyone in Chicago, then it’s not worth us doing.”

With that in mind, for this year’s fest Franke and Lubovitch commissioned a work from Lane Alexander, a tap dancer and founder of the 25-year-old dance company Chicago Human Rhythm Project. Alexander, 55, believes anyone can connect to tap. “Every culture in the world has an ancient tradition of foot drumming,” he says. “American tap is just the youngest version of the oldest dance form.”

Alexander’s piece, In the Meantime, riffs on the ubiquity of dance, an art that he says dates back to the earliest days of human community: “Paintings on caves that are 10,000 years old relate to either hunting or dancing.”

In the Meantime draws on the cross-cultural tradition of percussive dance, including flamenco, Irish dancing, and American tap. “We feel a deep connection to percussive dance when we see and hear it,” Alexander explains. “If you see an Irish dancer, Mexican dancer, and African dancer all moving at the same time, there’s a metamessage there about bringing people together through rhythm.”

GO The Chicago Dancing Festival runs August 25 to 29 at various locations. chicagodancingfestival.com