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Keep your eye on this weekend’s Dance for Life gala

Dance for Life, billed as “the largest performance-based AIDS fundraising event in the Midwest,” has been a major force on the Chicago scene since its founding in 1992. Its annual benefit raises funds to support HIV/AIDS care, education and prevention, as well as The Dancers’ Fund, a program created in 1994 with the mission to provide emergency financial assistance to dancers living with HIV/AIDS and any life-threatening illness. The benefit simultaneously serves as a galvanic showcase for the art of dance in this city, and the event’s participating companies and dancers invariably bring a particular fire to the stage.

This year’s benefit, to be held Saturday, Aug. 16 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, promises an exceptional lineup. Here’s the program:

± ACT I opener: The world premiere of “ready to fall,” with choreography by Harrison McEldowney & Jeremy Plummer (aerial concept and choreography). It is set to the music of music of Emmy Rossum.

± ENSEMBLE ESPANOL SPANISH DANCE THEATER in “Mil Clavos” (“One Thousand Nails”), a new work by Ron De Jesus (longtime dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Twyla Tharp). It debuted recently at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, but was missed by some audiences when a storm cut power to the theater. The piece unspools in three sections (only parts 1 and 3 will be performed here), with “Pasaje Nuevo” (“New Passage”) set to music by Ezio Bosso, and “Fuego Negro” (“Black Fire”) set to music by Ludovico Einaudi.

± VISCERAL DANCE CHICAGO: This new company, which made a hugely impression when it performed earlier this season at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, is a must-see. It will perform Impetere, a 2013 work choreographed by its artistic director, Nick Pupillo, and set to music by Apparat, Ólafur Arnalds, Matmos and Pixel. As the choreographer describes it: “A driving force. The internal made external. An exploration of how instinctual feelings manifest in movement. The innermost impulses compel us to action. Towards one another and away, we are driven to respond to these motivations. The stage creates a world for these forces to act without restriction.”

± RIVER NORTH DANCE CHICAGO: In choreographer Frank Chaves’ work, “Eva” (excerpts), the music of the late songstress Eva Cassidy propels a mix of fierce emotion and lyricism. If you are unfamiliar with “American songbird” Cassidy (who died of cancer in 1996, at the age of just 33), you can discover her legacy as a masterful interpreter of standards, jazz, blues, folk and gospel here.

± HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO: “One Thousand Pieces” (excerpts): This work, choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo and set to the music of Philip Glass, was loosely inspired by the stained glass mural by Marc Chagall that is a much-treasured work in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

± THE JOFFREY BALLET: Principal dancers April Daly and Dylan Gutierrez will perform the “Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux,” choreographed by George Balanchine.

± GIORDANO DANCE CHICAGO: In “Jolt,” a high-voltage work from 2012 choreographed by Autumn Eckman (with concept and structure by Nan Giordano), our caffeinated society is ideally captured and satirized to hilarious effect. It’s set to an original score by Evan Bivins.

± FINALE: The world premiere of “Fly Again,” choreographed by Randy Duncan (who never fails to generate a sense of spiritual uplift), and set to the Sounds of Blackness, with additional composition, arrangement, integration and production by Andy Mitran of Mitran Mitran Music.

Dance for Life begins at 5 p.m. with a Gala reception at the Hilton Chicago Grand Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan, followed by the performance at the Auditorium Theatre at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $25-$75 (performance only); $250- $600 (includes admission to 5:00 p.m. gala reception, premiere seating at the performance and complimentary shuttle bus service provided between the two venues).

To purchase tickets, (312) 922-5812 or visit http://www.danceforlifechicago.org.