The Era is a creative collective founded in 2014 by footwork dancers on the South Side of Chicago. The Era features footworkers: Litebulb, P-top, Chief Manny, Stelo and includes documentarian and founding advisor, Wills, co-manager Dee-Dee and consultant / advisor Drew. In 2016, we were recognized as one of Chicago's "cultural organizers of the year" by FADER Magazine, for bringing footwork dancing to the stage in Englewood on the South Side. We were also selected as one of the "choreographers of the year" in 2016 by Chicago publication New City. We have performed across Chicago and the US, and in other countries, including Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, and the UK.
At home on the South Side, The Era’s dancing speaks directly to youth from the same backgrounds as their own, passing on footwork, a dance tradition made in Chicago for Chicago. “Footwork kept me alive” is a refrain repeat we feel often, and by several generations of Chicago dancers who have turned to dance for community and survival. In 2017 we toured to 40 Chicago public schools, performing and engaging with kids in some of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods. Our school tour also included a workshop and motivational performance at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.
Since 2014, we have expanded upon what it means to be a dance crew in Chicago, addressing inequality and racism through our lyrics and panel discussions, and supporting women and girls in the history of footwork through collaboration and documentation. Our work across mediums has been featured in short documentaries by VICE, CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company), and the Chicago Tribune. In 2016, we were responsible for co-curating the first art gallery exhibition focused on Chicago footwork at Columbia College. The group has performed on leading global stages from PS1-MoMA to London’s Barbican Theater, and recently designed a footwork dance series for the Chicago Park District.
From Chatham to Tokyo, our work calls attention to the history of footwork across three generations of black dancers, and also to the global scope of this history as footwork continues to develop and expand. In the words of the Chicago Tribune, which featured us in an Arts Section cover story: “The Era has taken footwork back for Chicago. They hold dance seminars and workshops, incorporate mixed media and archival work into their live performances and are working on establishing a footwork youth summer camp on the South Side.”