Chicago Summer Dance: Grant Park, Spirit of Music Garden

“Let’s dance!  Put on your red shoes and dance the blues…Let’s sway, under the moonlight, the serious moonlight” – David Bowie

This weekend kicked-off the 18th annual, Chicago Summer Dance Series in Grant Park. A make-shift  stage and a 4,900 square-foot, eco-friendly dance floor made from recycled materials has been installed in the “Spirit of Music Garden” on Michigan Avenue, across from the historic Chicago Hilton and Blackstone hotels. This completely FREE, family-friendly, 11-week dance series is one of the best summer activities Chicago has to offer. Residents and out-of-towners can gather in this lovely, well-manicured garden, among beautiful plants, flowers, picnic tables and benches. Many people bring their own blankets, chairs and food. There is a one concession stand where you can purchase some tasty kabobs and pulled-pork sandwiches, as well as some other food offerings, beer, wine, sangria and margaritas!

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Sound Check at opening weekend of Chicago Summer Dance

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Instructors lead a 1 hour lesson of Cumbia dance steps before the band arrives and the party begins!

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But, mostly, Chicago Summer Dance is all about the dancing, singing and mingling. Here is how it works. Every Friday and Saturday (6-9:30pm) and Sunday (4-7pm) from now until September 14th, live bands and dance instructors show up to lead 1 hour of free dance lessons, based on their genre of music that day. Then, during the next 2-3 hours, you get to show off your newly-acquired dance moves on the pretty blue, white and pink dance floor to that particular band’s live music. AWESOME! I especially love to see the looks on peoples faces who unexpectedly stumble upon this event while strolling up and down Michigan Avenue. Then, all of a sudden…Boom! They join the party, too 🙂

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Not in the mood to dance? Pull up a patch of grass and enjoy the view and music!

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Bring your own picnic or belly up to the tasty food and drink concession stand.

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View from Grant Park’s Spirit of Music Garden looking toward South Michigan Avenue

Throughout the summer, all types of music and dancing are offered at the Chicago Summer Dance Series. There is salsa, rumba, cha-cha, reggae and funk, tango, country 2-step, jazz, classic swing, jitter-bug and much more.  This event reminds me of a few outdoor dance clubs I visited while in Barbados.  Very Cool.  Also very cool is that Chicago Summer Dance provides residents and visitors with an alternative to the expensive, loud and somewhat intimidating “scene” of big, trendy nightclubs.  No need to worry about your wardrobe here.  The attire is as diverse as the people themselves.  I have seen people wearing everything from gowns to tube tops! Wardrobe-watching is reason enough to swing by 🙂

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Aww…Sweet!

As a resident of the South Loop neighborhood where Chicago Summer Dance takes place, I have had many memorable afternoons and evenings just chillin’ solo to the great music and people-watching.

And, here is some free advice:  When a complete stranger with a nice smile extends his or her hand to ask you to dance at sunset or under a full moon with the Chicago skyline as your backdrop…the answer is “Yes!”  No need to worry if your skills are not up to par.  No one cares 🙂

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She’s more of an artist but she still likes to listen to the music 🙂

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This gentlemen was practicing his dance moves while the evening’s judges watched on 😉

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Checking out the Chicago Summer Dance schedule of events through September 14th.

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A couple of summers ago, Chicago Summer Dance hosted a night dedicated to Soul Train and Don Cornelius. How was it? It was FREAKING AMAZING! On that hot and humid, summer night, people showed up dressed in their 1970’s polyester disco garb, wigs and platform shoes. Hilarious. While I did not get the memo about wearing vintage clothing, I did boogie-on-down the impromptu Soul Train dance line that formed as the booty-shakin’ got underway. So much fun! Brought back so many memories of my childhood.

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Should you find yourself needing to cool off, just walk a few blocks to Buckingham Fountain or to the Crown Fountain in Millenium Park.  You will also be mere steps from the lakefront.  On Saturday nights, stick around for another 45 minutes or so, as fireworks are displayed over the lakefront compliments of Navy Pier starting at 10:15pm.  Seriously, why would you want to miss out on this?!

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Nice shoes!

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NO shoes!

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Yesterday, I stopped by to take some pictures for this blog post and I struck up a conversation with a really friendly woman my age, named Rose, who turned out to be a local dance instructor.  We exchanged some funny solo adventures and she taught me some things I never knew about proper ballroom dance floor etiquette. How educational!  And, bonus…just before the evening ended, a nice man extended his hand and invited me to dance with him.  Of course, I said “Yes!”

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Check it out, folks! Don’t worry if your friends/spouse/significant-other cannot join you! Sway to the groovy tunes by yourself or dance with a stranger or neighbor.  Don’t think you like to dance? Try sitting in this lovely garden on Michigan Avenue for a while as the band plays and the “spirit of music” just might move YOU to hit the dance floor!

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The “Lady of Music, Art, Prose, Poetry and Drama” sculpture in the Spirit of Music Garden. She was erected in honor of the first conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Curious about other weekly, outdoor, Summer events in Chicago?  Check out my posts about Summer Film Series in Millennium Park and Jazzin’ At The Shedd at Shedd Aquarium.

ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.

Labeled: Culture & Community · Travel