Rahm Emanuel's Dance Party

Mayor Rahm Emanuel got some more love from the D.C. media over the weekend, with a Washington Post article about his efforts to make Chicago a great dance city.

Emanuel, described as “the mayor with unusually elegant posture,” will appear at an Aug. 22 fundraiser for the Chicago Dancing Festival, which runs from the 23rd to the 27th. He will also speak before one of the performances.

Emanuel studied dance at Sarah Lawrence College, and continued to take ballet classes until the birth of his second child.

“I do really love the art form,” Emanuel said.

He rattled off its virtues: “You have music; geometry, in the sense of space; you have the interpretation through your body of music; and you have a concept. I love dance as an art form,” he continued. “Not many other art forms combine performance, music, lighting, costume, plus you have the staging geometry and you have the discipline that only the body can interpret.

“It’s not an accident that in the Bible, God says, ‘I have piped music unto thee, and thee have not danced.’” Emanuel pauses, jokes that he’s digging deep into his Sarah Lawrence schooling but confesses he may not have the wording right. (It’s close.)

The serious tone returns: “It’s one of the rare art forms God embraces.”

While as flattering to Emanuel as everything else written by an East Coast reporter, the story wasn’t intended to promote the mayor. It was intended to promote Chicago. Specifically, to dispel the “Chicago…really!” attitude that still prevails on the coasts. Thirty years ago, Chicago’s idea of fine dining was Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and its idea of great theater was a Broadway touring company of Cats.

Twenty years ago, the city’s culture was defined by Saturday Night Live as beer, Polish sausage and Bears football. Ten years ago, we still had a mayor named Daley who couldn’t speak in complete sentences, just like in the 1950s. Emanuel is trying to kill off the city’s meathead image. The fact that Chicago elected a ballet dancer is proof in itself the city no longer sees itself that way.

Emanuel and Barack Obama have proven that Chicagoans can thrive in D.C. Now, as mayor, Emanuel wants to prove that Washingtonians can thrive in Chicago. New Yorkers and San Franciscans, too. If a Washingtonian like Rahm can learn to love Chicago, anyone can.

The Post article notes that the Dancing Festival was unable to fulfill Emanuel’s suggestion to bring the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, but still pimps our dance scene, pointing out that “Chicago, with the Joffrey and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, has both a nationally known ballet and modern dance company.”

During his 2004 presidential campaign, John Kerry and his wife Teresa, the very definition of Eastern elitists, visited Chicago and declared, “We could live here.”

That’s a long way from “Chicago…really!”  


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