Ballet Florida’s Shannon Smith & Lorena Jimenez in Elemental Brubeck.

Last week, I was surprised to hear some grumbles in Time Out Chicago—and from some dancers I know—about the Chicago Dancing Festival.

If you don’t know what this is, it’s the free dance night on Wednesday at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Dancers from Alvin Ailey, the Joffrey, American Ballet Theatre, and the experimental, New York-based Complexions Contemporary Dance Co., are among those performing. Check out the picks from the Sun-Times and the Tribune.

Apparently, one of the concerns addressed in Time Out is that this similarly named fest will steal some wattage from Dance Chicago, which happens every November at the Atheneum Theatre in Lake View. Another grumble is that the event doesn’t involve enough Chicago companies; the Joffrey and Muntu (an African dance company) are the only locals on the list.

I don’t get this griping. The point man for the fest is the major American choreographer Lar Lubovitch, a Chicago native who has been reestablishing his hometown ties as of late. Sure, the fest largely represents companies he has worked with (Ballet Florida, for example), but Chicago rarely sees such groups come through. And let’s face it—while increasingly robust, Chicago’s dance scene could use an injection of star wattage. I’ve been to my share of dance shows, and, Baryshnikov’s recent visit aside, audiences rarely pack the house like they do for, say, Wicked. Lubovitch is New York dance elite; he gives an event a bit of sheen. That’s not a bad thing, especially if it brings some more folks into the fold.

The far more interesting angle to this whole story, I think, is who put up the money. The last time I interviewed Lubovitch, the question at the top of my list was: who exactly is Chicago Dancing Company (the name of the group putting on the fest)?

Lubovitch said that he had been working with retired Hubbard Street dancer Jay Franke and ex-Hubbard Street chief Gail Kalver to assemble an all-star roster of dance companies. The MCA was putting its name behind the event. But then the answer to the money question stunned me: all private donors, no corporations. “We approached some major corporations and they are all very interested but all of them have certain funding deadlines,” said Lubovitch, adding that it’s common for companies to wait out an event’s first year before pledging support. He added that Gail Kalver’s support was particularly good fortune. “Gail was leaving [Hubbard Street], and we called her immediately and asked if she would like to come aboard. She was instrumental in fundraising and instrumental in logistics.”

So, a big New York choreographer with Chicago roots (Lubovitch) recruits a strong business person (Kalver) and a fest is on. Sounds like a great event—also sounds like a way some companies should consider doing business.

What do you think? Would you rather see Chicago companies—or groups from other cities?

Photography: Janine Harris