Skip to main content

Dance For Life records

Identifier: Dance-MS-Dance For Life

Scope and Content of the Collection

Administrative and promotional materials related to Dance For Life and related events. Also included are videotapes (24 VHS videotapes and 6 Betacam-SP tapes) and DVDs (33) of rehearsals, performances, submissions from companies, and promotional spots. Audiovisual materials are not digitized and unavailable for use.

Project notebooks were kept for every year, and include some printed items such as programs, fliers, and invitations, as well as letters, printed emails, budgets, and other planning documents. From 2004 - 2016, the files contain printed matter only. Includes 3 large street banners (rolled in poster tubes) advertising the 20th anniversary Dance For Life performance and documentary created for them by HMS Media.

Materials have been digitized and are available online.


  • Creation: 1992-2016



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Dance For Life Records are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Dance For Life Records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

History of Dance For Life and Chicago Dancers United

From the organization's Website: Having lost many close friends and dance colleagues due to HIV and AIDS, Keith Elliott, a member of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre (JHCDT), felt it was time for Chicago dancers to take an active role in preventing the spread of the disease. Keith’s idea — both brilliant and simple — was to bring Chicago’s dance community together for one night, to Dance for Life. In 1991, Keith and Todd Kiech began working to make Dance for Life a reality, enlisting JHCDT associate artistic director Harriet Ross to give their event the creative force required to make a significant impact. HIV/AIDS community activist and skilled fundraiser Danny Kopelson joined the project the following year, along with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago executive director Gail Kalver. The inaugural Dance for Life (DFL) was held in June 1992 at the Organic Theatre. Every seat was sold.

In the years following, annual DFL events filled the Athenaeum Theatre, the Skyline Stage at Navy Pier and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, each selling out weeks in advance. DFL is proud to be held today at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, a beloved landmark celebrating its 125th anniversary. Over the past 25 years, 33 Chicago-based, professional dance companies and numerous choreographers have been presented at DFL, supporting and showcasing the city’s unique diversity of talent, dance traditions and styles. Partner dance companies of DFL include Giordano Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the Joffrey Ballet and, each year, dancers from these ensembles and throughout the city come together with choreographer Randy Duncan to collaborate on a world premiere specifically created for the event. Each DFL event also features two additional dance companies from Chicago, selected through an adjudication process and providing even broader participation in DFL, and even greater diversity onstage. DFL remains the only annual opportunity for the incredibly talented, world-renowned professional dancers of Chicago to unite artistically to help those affected by HIV/AIDS as well as, through The Dancers’ Fund, those in need within the local dance community itself. The dancers, companies and choreographers involved generously donate their time, energy and artistry to the cause.

Over 5.5 million dollars has been raised by DFL since 1992, for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, The Dancers’ Fund, and twenty-four other AIDS service-providing organizations in Chicago. DFL has supported and helped produce several spin-off events, while The Dancers’ Fund established by DFL provides assistance to any member of the professional Chicago dance community facing critical health issues. In response to the changing needs of Chicago’s dance community, evolutions in the nature of HIV/AIDS, the growth of the annual event and its other programs, DFL has grown into a nonprofit organization, Chicago Dancers United.


5.4 Linear Feet (4 record cartons, 1 oversize box, and 3 poster tubes)

1 Linear Feet (26 VHS tapes, 20 DVDs)


Project notebooks, publicity, promotional materials, and audiovisual footage from Dance For Life, a yearly dance event organized by Chicago Dancers United. According to their website, " Dance for Life Chicago is the annual benefit dance concert presenting and showcasing the city’s unique diversity of talent, dance traditions and styles by bringing together the incredibly talented, world-renowned professional dancers of Chicago for one night on the same stage. The dance community unites artistically to support those affected by critical health issues by generously donating their time, energy and artistry to the cause. Funds raised assist various organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS and other health issues as well as The Dancers’ Fund."


Materials arranged by type and chronologically therein.

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Collection Stack Location

3a 48 4


Gift, Harriet Ross on behalf of Chicago Dancers United, 2016.

Processed by

Alison Hinderliter, 2016.

Inventory of the Dance for Life Records, 1992-2016
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-03-17: Audiovisual materials have been permanently removed from the collection for preservation. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States