HMS Media’s innovative 13-part series features 40+ Chicago dance troups now airing over Ch. 11

For a comparatively tiny amount of money, HMS Media is producing an ambtious 13-part, half-hour series with the self-explanatory title, “The Chicago Dance Project.”

The series spotlighting more than 40 Chicago dance troupes, from the famous to the lesser known, airs Sundays over Ch. 11 until pledge month and resumes at an earlier Sunday time slot.

HMS Media partner/producer Scott Silberstein believes the series is “the most diverse array of dance from one city ever aired on television.”

The series’ goal, he said, “is to make people who know nothing about dance fall in love with it.”

Silberstein and his partner Matt Hoffman have specialized in performing arts television shows since forming their HMS Media in 1988. In fact, HMS has won seven Emmys for shows of this genre.

Silberstein said he had dreamed about producing a dance series for 10 years but it wasn’t until summer of 2003 that he got serious about it and worked out the idea, which would be a departure from shows with interviews with dancers and choreographers. “We’ve done that before,” he said.

The budget was a manageable $200,000, shooting on digibeta.

This show would be for dance fans, Silberstein said, “for people to get to know about the many different styles of dance, say, as seen through the perspective of a novice, so you get the feeling of a person falling in love with dance before your eyes.”

Contemporary dance company Lucky Plush

The novice or host part went to Second City improv actress Sandra Albert, who had worked with Silberstein on various projects in the past. About half the show takes place with Albert backstage asking questions a neophyte might pose, and the rest is pure dance.

Among the dance troupes featured are the Joffrey Ballet, River North Chicago Dance, Mad Shak Dance Company, Deeply Rooted Productions and the Joel Hall Dancers (celebrating its 30th anniversary).

Once the concept was clearly defined, Silberstein took it to Ch. 11, which had aired HMS shows in the past, and they agreed to distribute it.

Next stop was to see Sarah Solataroff, senior fellow of the Chicago Community Trust, who enthusiastically embraced the idea. “This is exactly what dance needs right now,” she told Silberstein. Additional funding was provided by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and individual donors.

Hoffman and Ford so far have captured about 60 to 75 hours of tape and editor Kristin Klinger-Thomas has finished three shows so far but isn’t worried about meeting weekly deadlines.

After the fourth show in the 9:30 p.m. time slot, “Dance” goes on hiatus while Ch. 11’s spring pledge break takes over the evening hours. The show resumes in March, at which time the other episodes will be completed. Thereafter, it will air Sundays at 6 p.m.

Silberstein and Hoffman, friends since kids at summer camp, Ford and Klinger-Thomas are HMS’ core staff, augmented by 12 to 15 freelancers.

The company has space in the Sound/Video Impressions facility in Des Plaines. Phone, 847/803- 7000; Email, hmsscott@aol.com. See the trailer at www.hmsmedia.com.

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