Our Story: Celebrating 40-Plus Years!

A Chicago-based non-profit — the mission of the Joel Hall Dancers & Center is to use the arts to enrich the lives of its community through dance performance & education.

We reach out to our community — targeting those who may not otherwise be exposed to the arts — by providing dance classes along with local, national, & international showcase performances.

Back in the 70’s, Joel Hall was a pioneer for the gay and lesbian community, helping them do just about everything — from dancing on the stage to mentoring them off it. He’s been inducted into the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in Chicago, and has helped scores of gay, lesbian, and trans communities realize that dance can be a possibility, no matter who you are. From sponsoring trans dancers through YEPP to leading youth empowerment projects all across Chicago, Joel has created a culture that thrives to this day.

The Joel Hall Dancers express contemporary urban life through dance while educating, entertaining, and inspiring their audience.  The signature dance style of JHD incorporates ballet, jazz, modern, funk, and “street dance” using contemporary jazz and house music to create an innovative and continuously evolving dance style that is appealing, relevant, and approachable for those frequently underserved by the arts.

The Joel Hall Dancers maintain a citywide, national, and international reputation, not only for their diversity and innovation, but also for their substantive sociological content and engaging aesthetic style.  Under the leadership of Artistic Director Joel Hall, the Joel Hall Dancers have carried their unique yet universally accessible voice to venues that span the world.

Both JHD and its audience exhibit a rare diversified spectrum of cultural, ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Joel Hall Dancers (JHD) have a rich, 40-plus year history, beginning with the company’s inception in 1974. Now over 4 decades “young” — JHD continues to dazzle audiences in venues throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, across the country … and around the world.

“I started my own dance company because I have a personal dance statement to make. I can work in other mediums, such as ballet, but my message has to be conveyed according to my own personality. Audiences can relate to that.” ≈ Joel Hall, Chicago Sun-Times, December 11, 1974
In September 1974 Chicago City Theatre Company — which includes the Joel Hall Dancers — was formally co-founded by Joel Hall. March 1975 brought the company’s first concert series at the Francis Parker Auditorium in Chicago. The company returned to Parker performing Chain of Fools, a ballet choreographed by Ruth Page, in 1980.
“Theirs is a spontaneous response . . . it’s natural . . . not imposed . . . they don’t have to write a review.” ≈ Joel Hall on his “ultimate critic” … the audience, July 1983
Throughout the 1980s, the company continued to develop their Chicago identity while establishing a national and international presence. The company performed at the Joyce Theatre in New York (1983, 1984), in Scotland at Glasgow’s MayFest (1985, 1988), at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London (1985), at Stranmills Theatre in Belfast and in the Netherlands (1986), in Glasgow and Liverpool (1988) — and throughout the United Kingdom, and the now former Soviet Union (1989).

In the 1990s, JHD focused on Chicago through performances across the city. A tragic fire at the Joel Hall Dancers & Center studio in 1993 destroyed much of the company’s resources and forced relocation and a lengthy rebuild. Despite the challenges, Mr. Hall debuted Nuts & Bolts (1994) — which quickly became a holiday staple in Chicago.

Mr. Hall continues to present notable premieres with JHD — always pushing the company to grow and evolve. Music is at the forefront of this work.

Etude en Jazz #4 (2002) and Etude en Maison #418 (2005) explore what dance looks like alongside jazz and house music respectively. For Marvin (2004) brings the music of Marvin Gaye to life as An Evening with Nina Simone (2006) does with the music of the legendary songstress. Working with Ray Silkman to create Silkman Suites (2005), The March Civil Rights Opera on The March (2012), and Charles Heath on Conversations with Charles Heath (2013) prove that collaborations with composers and live music are key to this evolution.

2014 marks the beginning of the Joel Hall Dancers & Center’s 40th Anniversary.