Historic Baptist church in Lincoln Park to be turned into dance studio

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The end of an era for the oldest African-American Baptist Church on Chicago's North Side marks a new beginning for a dance center and studio. (WLS)

The end of an era for the oldest African-American Baptist Church on Chicago's North Side marks a new beginning for a dance center and studio in Lincoln Park.

It's a sign of the changing economic times, and the owners of the new dance studio on Clark Street want its history to influence its future.

Hermon Baptist Church in the heart of Lincoln Park was built by African American Baptists who grew tired of walking to the South Side to worship. Soon, it will be home to the artistry of Giordano Dance Company.

"With prayer and fasting, God will place us wherever we need to be placed, he'll take care of the economics, it's his business," Rev. Keith L. Edwards said.

But after 121 years, with its dwindling congregation, the aging building made no sense to keep. Looking to consolidate operations, Giordano Dance Company thought it could build on Baptist tradition.

"We are about energy. What we bring into the world is beauty and energy," said Nan Giordano, Giordano Dance Chicago.

In private studio space they now rent, the company's signature American jazz method is on display. Dancers can't wait to move north into history.

"It is super spiritual and I feel blessed and thankful to be a part of that history," dancer Devin Buchanan said. "It is going to bring a new life to the company."

Giordano Dance paid $3.25 million for Hermon Baptist. They plan to turn it into an artistic gem.

"Dance in Chicago is pretty darn strong. It is recognized across the country as being one of the most inclusive parts of the dance community," executive director Michael McStraw said.

"We are going to take everything that we have already had and put it in this new space," dancer Ashley Downs said. "It'll be wonderful."

After 121 years, these pews are going to be filled for the final time for services. After that, the Hermon Baptist congregation goes to temporary digs down in Bronzeville as they look for something more permanent.

The question for Chicago is: does the energy and the love that has happened here over so many years transfer to the dance company? From what we have seen, the city of Chicago should be pretty confident that's going to happen.

Renderings were provided by Thomas Kerwin, Principal of bKL Architects of Chicago.
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societychurchdanceblack historyChicagoLincoln Park
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