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Street Named In Honor Of Edgewater Dance Icon Joel Hall

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Photo: Joel Hall FB

A street corner in Edgewater has been renamed “Honorary Joel Hall Way” in recognition of the choreographer and dance hall instructor who, since the 1970s, has created more than 70 ballets for his own company.

A Cabrini Green native, Joel Hall is the second openly gay African-American man to have a street or corner named after him, according to the Windy City Times. The new street sign, located at the corner of Clark Street and Thorndale Avenue, is just south of Joel Hall Dancers & Center, 5965 N. Clark St. It was unveiled at a ceremony on May 6.

“Joel Hall has passionately and diligently dedicated his life and career to using the arts to enrich our community and its many citizens through affordable and accessible dance education and performance,” 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman said in a press release issued by Joel Hall’s company. “Mr. Hall also once served among Mayor Harold Washington’s international ambassadors for the arts — sharing dance from the streets of Chicago to the far reaches of the globe.”

Hall’s unique dance style of American Urban Jazz Dance is based on jazz and expresses a rich vocabulary fusing both classical and modern dance idioms, the press release said. Hall is also noted in several books on the contemporary dance arts, including “Black Dance,” by Edward Thorpe, dance critic for The London Standard; and “The Black Tradition in American Dance,” by Richard Long.

According to the Windy City Times, LGBTQ activist and Open Hand co-founder Lori Cannon, as well as Joel Hall Dance Company board member Debbie Chanel also spoke at the event.

“Cannon made the point that so many great artists did not survive the AIDS crisis and if they and their contributions were acknowledged, they came posthumously,” the newspaper reported. ”’I like to say ‘thank you’ when people are alive,’” Cannon said.

The Windy City Times added that Cannon reached out to Osterman two years ago and was instrumental in starting the process to have the street corner renamed after Hall.

Hall has received a number of awards and accolades over the years. In 1993, according to the press release, he was inducted into the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame. He received The Chicago Dance & Music Alliance “Lifetime Achievement for Service to the Field” award and the Jazz Dance World Congress’ “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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Photo: Joel Hall FB

Additionally, Hall was honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the African American Arts Alliance in November 2014. He was profiled in The History Makers online series, which is now part of the Library of Congress archives. Hall has also participated in panel discussions hosted in part by the Chicago Dance History Project, a collective that has dedicated its resources in part to unearthing lesser-known individuals, organizations and venues that have anchored Chicago’s strong local dance community, according to The Reader.

Using video interviews, digital images, scholarly research and oral histories from living, prominent figures in Chicago dance, the CDHP’s goal is to collect and house primary source material to determine how Chicago has shaped dance and how dance has shaped Chicago throughout the 20th century and into the present, The Reader said.

Joel Hall Dancers & Center was officially incorporated in 1974 as The Chicago City Theatre Company. It provides affordable dance classes along with local, national and international showcase performances for those who may not otherwise be exposed to the arts.

The company’s signature dance style incorporates ballet, jazz, modern, funk and “street dance” using contemporary jazz and house music to create innovative and continuously evolving dance style that is appealing, relevant and approachable for those who are frequently underserved by the arts, the press release said.

For more information on Hall and Joel Hall Dancers & Center, visit the company’s website.


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