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Using dance as a learning platform for business, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is collaborating with more than 60 tech startups inhabiting 1871, a newly created co-working space in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

ArtPlace spoke with Jason Palmquist, Hubbard Street’s Executive Director, about the project.

ARTPLACE: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken in your efforts? How did you get burned, or how did you prevail?

PALMQUIST: I think the decision to enter the “creative placemaking” space represented the most significant risk for us as an institution.

At the most basic level, Hubbard Street is a producing organization with a company of artists who create beautiful work on stage. But, we are also a training organization with over 70 dance classes a week for aspiring professionals and hobbyists alike. And, we are organization in public school classrooms every day, bringing movement and the choreographic process together with core curriculum. Now, we are an organization that is attempting to increase the vibrancy and vitality of a place.

It adds another layer of complexity to what is already a very complex organization. In the next two months alone, Hubbard Street (the main company or HS2) will have performances in over 25 cities on three continents, which will include the world premiere of a new work from Alonzo King in a unique two-company collaboration with LINES Ballet. And, we will audition hundreds of aspiring pre-professionals in 10 additional cities for our summer intensive program. And, next Monday, we will sit down with a number of entrepreneurs in an intimate classroom setting to talk about innovation – and how dance can inform their attempts to build their business.

Ultimately, it’s all of these things in combination that serve a selfish institutional purpose – they ensure that Hubbard Street, as a 35-year old contemporary dance company, remains relevant – on the world’s stage and in our own city. The commitment of a portion of our limited resources, financial as well as in capacity, represents a risk, but one we believe will have a big payoff.

We’re now almost halfway through our ArtPlace residency – we had two site-specific performances at 1871, we’ve invited 1871 members to two performances at the Harris Theater, we’ve created four films about dance as a learning platform, and we’re about to have the second of our classroom experiences. We expect the lessons learned from the first half of the project to deeply inform the second half, and look forward to seeing what we’ll discover.

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