A dance at night in Hermosa

It’s nearly night-time and the street is quiet.

Business is good in the taqueria across the street, but there’s nobody in the panaderia. The day’s goods are sold.

Working class Hermosa readies for the end of the day.

Hermosa is the neighborhood where Puerto Ricans have gathered anew. They’ve moved out from Humboldt Park, leaving a growing number of residents with better incomes, who are moving in. Gentrification it’s called. Hermosa, another dot on the expanding map of Chicago’s vast Latino universe.

A small group is filling the seats at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, 4046 W. Armitage Ave. This was once a movie theater. Then, it was a factory. And in the last year, its vast interior has become home to one of the city’s oldest Puerto Rican organizations.

There are computer classes, classes in traditional Puerto Rican instruments and several days a week a zumba class.

The last minute preparations are underway for the River North Dance Chicago group. Most of the time, the troupe appears downtown at the Harris Theater and the prices for seats can be quite costly. Or this traveling outside the US, showing the brilliance of modern dance from America.

But on this night, the elegant dancers are appearing in the heart of a working class Latino neighborhood — a rare and wonderful gift — thanks to a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

For the previous two days, the dancers taught and demonstrated their art, their music to dozens of youngsters at the center. And now they perform for the people at the center. All who are sitting in their folding chairs, which are crowded together and pressed up close to the dancers’ platform —  a closeness rarely experienced by even the group’s normal patrons.  They are showing this audience beauty and magic tonight. As these  young dancers create incredible images with their bodies and their concentrated energy.

Here on the edge of Chicago in a place many do not know, the moment is precious and shared gratefully.



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