Dance for Life taps a new producer for 2012.
Anthony Guerrero takes over for founder Keith Elliott.
A preliminary Google search for Chicago’s Anthony Guerrero yields few results. There are a LinkedIn profile and some résumé highlights. I e-mail a Dance for Life publicist asking for more info. She writes back: “Anthony’s a bit of a mystery. We don’t have a bio or picture of him. I will try to get you something before your interview.”
The history of Dance for Life, which takes place on August 18 at the Auditorium Theatre, begins with founder Keith Elliott. The future, for now, resides with mystery-man Guerrero. After last year’s 20th anniversary performance—a significant milestone for the HIV/AIDS care fund-raiser that puts Chicago’s finest dance troupes on one stage—Elliott decided to assume a part-time role as executive producer. He handed the daily operations to Guerrero, a Roosevelt University M.B.A. who began working with Dance for Life only a year ago. It was a chance pairing: The 36-year-old stumbled on a DFL flyer one day outside of Roosevelt. This year marks the first time Elliott will not be handling the day-to-day details.
If Elliott signaled early intentions of finding a replacement, the new guy didn’t know it. Their relationship grew after last year’s production, when, Guerrero says, they “got to a lot of talking about our pasts.” Upon hearing that Elliott might pursue other nonprofit efforts, Guerrero threw his hat in the ring. One thing that set him apart, Elliott says, is that “he knew how to work with different types of people. When you have so many people coming to an event like this, you get a lot of different personalities.” Guerrero is no stranger to nonprofits, having founded the theater company Hubris Productions in 2005 , but he knows his new role is not without agita.
“I joked one day that whoever takes [Elliott’s] place must be insane,” he says. “It’s not only a lot of responsibility, it’s also a 20-year history. But going through the whole thing, there isn’t [pressure] because Dance for Life, it speaks for itself and what it does.”
What it does is raise money and awareness for a once terminal disease. Advances in medicine have made HIV/AIDS afflictions a manageable condition, thanks in part to events like DFL. To date, the organization has donated more than $4 million to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Dancers’ Fund, and discussions for expanding the popular fund-raiser to other parts of the country are in preliminary stages.
Upholding such lofty standards might prove daunting for someone in his second year on the job, but Guerrero feels his experience and Elliott’s mentorship allow him to build upon proven practice: “Biggest night of dance,” he says—eight companies rather than the traditional six. “Increasing the general audience,” he adds—marketing to younger people and increasing access to special pre-dance events.
“There was a lot of learning last year about not just producing a huge performing arts show but the benefit aspect,” Guerrero says. “Raising money was something that was definitely new and that I paid a lot of attention to with Keith.
“I fell in love with Dance for Life,” he says. “And apparently, Dance for Life fell in love with me.”