An Insider’s Guide to Jazz Dance in the Windy City

By: 2011 Guest Choreographer Jennifer Glaws

So, what do jazz teachers like to do when they have some time off? Take jazz classes of course. Being from Chicago myself, I love to go back whenever I can and indulge in classes I do not get to consistently experience during the academic school year. There is a wealth of jazz dance classes in Chicago. Below are some of my favorite spots and teachers that should not be missed when visiting the city.

(If you are familiar with the article ‘Three Perfect Days’ seen in Hemisphere’s magazine, this blog runs something like that 🙂

Start your travels from wherever you are in the city by (jumping on the L connecting to the blue line- traveling towards Forest Lake, getting off at the Racine stop, walk one block north) and find yourself at Lou Conte Dance Studio, shared headquarters of internationally acclaimed Hubbard Street Dance Company and thirteen jazz classes a week to choose from. One should not miss taking class from Rebecca Lemme. In fact take a few from her in one day. Her jazz choreography is challenging and creative adding both technical skills and unusual shapes. Her unique music selections are dynamic and above all she is completely present and verbally articulate with attentiveness to every student in her class. You will feel like you are taking a private lesson amongst a class of 25 other dancers.

Next stop- Visceral Dance Studio. (Jump back on the blue Line, jump off at Western, and take Western down to diversey.) I absolutely love the artistic director of this school, and have been taking class from him for several years now. Nick Pupillo, former member of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, teaches ballet and the int/adv jazz classes. His 40-minute warm-up alone will get your body moving and remember curvature and strength that you forgot you had. I would have to say the first half of his lesson is part of my favorite, which is not usually the case in most classes I take. His choreography blends a wonderful balance of lyrical, modern, and musically challenging jazz movement. I find myself very stimulated when I leave his classes. Lizzie MacKenzie, a long time Chicago Jazz performer and another teacher that should not be missed when taking jazz classes in Chicago, is also on faculty at Visceral Dance Studio.

Last stop for the day on our tour and the absolute essential stop for any Jazz dance purists is to head to Gus Giordano Dance School. Gus Giordano, one of the godfathers of American jazz dance, modified ballet in codifying his own stylistic movement of jazz. The school is located in downtown Evanston about a twenty-minute drive from north side Chicago. It feels as if you are walking into a Jazz Dance History museum when walking into the studio, something like walking into the movie Flash Dance, or comparatively to a modern dancer walking on the grounds of Jacobs Pillow. If you have been one of the fortunate dancers who have gotten to take from Gus Giordano his legacy is still very much alive and felt with his current faculty and his stylistic intensions still being taught. If you enjoy Contemporary-Jazz dancing, I highly recommend taking class from Cesar G. Salinas.

The three studios I mention above I never miss when in Chicago, but when extra time permits I do enjoy taking jazz classes at the studios below:

Joel Hall Dance Center
1511 W Berwyn Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Jump Rhythm Jazz Project
Class locations vary; visit website for details.

Hear, hear! to taking many Jazz classes in Chicago and/or Minneapolis,


Lou Conte Dance Studio
1147 W Jackson Blvd (312-850-9766,
Single class $15.

Visceral Dance Center
2829 N Elston Ave (773-772-1771, Single class $15.

Giordano Dance School
614 Davis St, Evanston (847-866-9442,
Single class $16.

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