Of the many arts and culture activities Chicago has to offer during the summer, few are as unique and exciting as Chicago SummerDance. Running June 26-September 13 in Grant Park's Spirit of Music Garden, SummerDance combines a basic dance workshop with a live music performance, making for the perfect night out. If you've always wanted to learn swing, mambo, salsa or any other traditional dance style, you'll have an amazing (and free!) opportunity at SummerDance. Even if you're not in the mood to groove, you can still enjoy the tunes and moves in the company of friends and picnic food.
There are multiple chances to catch a SummerDance show each weekend, but here are some of the highlights through July:
Friday, June 26
Latin Big Band Mambo and Cha Cha
Kicking off a new season of Chicago SummerDance, Mambo Express and Mixed Motion Art bring you the sounds and styles of Cuba. Originating in the Havana dance halls of the 1930s, mambo made its way to the United States soon after and became a staple of modern dance. Just like its precursor, salsa, mambo is all in the feet and is typically performed at a lively pace.
Friday, July 3
A dance style cultivated in Chicago, Chicago Steppin' emphasizes style and finesse over a laid-back funk, soul or disco track. With the help of musicians DJ Eric "ET" Taylor and Dawud and Lura Shareef, you'll want to zero in on the groove when dancing this style, and if you're really feeling it, wear a nice hat.
Sunday, July 19
Square and Line Dancing
Now is the perfect time to bust out your cowboy boots and large belt buckles (both scientifically proven to make you better at square dancing). Even if you don't have the usual attire, or you're not so confident in your abilities, this style is generally very easy for beginners to pick up. Square and line dancing often uses standard steps that are called out by the bandleader, so there's no need to worry about forgetting them. Regardless, the accompaniment from the Golden Horse Ranch Band and Annie Coleman are sure to provide ample entertainment on their own.
Friday, July 24
'30s and '40s Swing
You're probably familiar with swing, thanks to countless old movies featuring flappers and fedoras aplenty. The kind of swing dancing you see in film, though, is usually very showy and technically advanced, but there's a reason this style was all the rage for a good 30 years: it's just plain fun. With the help of musicians Joel Paterson and the Modern Sound and Dance Center Chicago, you'll be Lindy Hopping with the best of them in no time.
If none of these suit your fancy, there are plenty more dates to choose from. Check out the full schedule online (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_summerdance.html/) and dance your way through summertime in Chicago.