As we continue along this ever-expanding idea of a Chicago Renaissance, it’s undeniable that the forward-thinking artistic movement goes well-beyond just music. Art, at its essence is interpretation and no one takes cues like fast-rising dancer, choreographer and Oak Park native, Ian Eastwood, who has been forging a new path in his own lane that speaks to a larger independent movement that has come to pace this scene of artists and creatives operating out of the midwest.
“I want people to take time watching what I do, to take time to think, not just click off of a video in three seconds because they don’t like the song or something,” said Eastwood in an interview earlier this year. “What I do is genuine and people watch it and like it because they genuinely like it and they’re genuinely interested in it, that’s what I do it for.”
At 23, Eastwood has established himself as a name to know in the world of dance. While credits dancing behind and along the likes of Big Sean, Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa and more would be enough for most to rest on, Eastwood has subsequently pushed the envelope for how the discipline is consumed. Coinciding somewhat with the ascent of Chance and Vic, Eastwood began producing videos on YouTube showing off his particular style of dance. Pulling from the theme and lyrics of songs rather than simply matching moves to beats, he challenged himself to reach outside the typical, in turn discovering a style that acts as a physical manifestation of the single he’s dancing to. It’s a style that’s caught the attention of many, his videos generating tens of thousands of hits at the minimum, propelling him towards the forefront both locally and out west, where he contemplating the purchase of his first house in Los Angeles.
That style fully manifested itself earlier this year as Eastwood fulfilled a childhood dream by teaming up with longstanding mixtape website DatPiff to debut what’s been considered the first dance mixtape. A collection of tightly-wound videos that feature a cross-section of musical artists local and otherwise, it’s a personal journey that finds a cross-section with his development as both a man and an artist. It’s the kind of inward-searching work that has become a staple of the larger idea of creation within the Chicago Renaissance, and one that’s been helped along and inspired by those fellow creatives.
At a recent live Q+A at Soho House in Chicago, Ian and I talked about his unique style of dance, and how he goes about crafting the specific moves that have come to be his calling card in the world of dance. In talking about the music scene in general, Eastwood spoke of wanting to find an appropriate place to exist, a place where his own talent would co-exist and interact in a sensical manner with the backdrop from which he was working.
“When I started really working with the soX boys like a year and half ago or so and I saw the way they perceived me as my own artist it gave me all the confidence I needed,” Eastwood said. “I felt a shift in the culture over the two years prior to that and was looking for something new, and that was kind of how AdultLessons came to be.”
Seconding that opinion was none other than Nico Segal, better known to some as Donnie Trumpet, who has emerged as one of the strongest cosigns for Eastwood. Touching on the interpretation of music through movement, Segal spoke to the intimate crowd back just before his Taste of Chicago performance about the importance for understanding his own creations across a series of different mediums.
“Ian has this really unique ability to kind of get into my own head, or any musicians head really and understand what kind of message they’re trying to get across, only he gets it in movement rather than sound, which is crazy dope,” said Segal back in July. “It’s really cool though as an artist, it gives you a deeper understanding of what you’re doing and how it’s being interpreted.”
2016 has been a year of growth for just about everyone having even a passing correlation with the Chicago music scene. For Eastwood, it’s been a year of evolution, of finding and understanding what success might mean to him. Working closely with an influential sub-section of the next wave of music to dictate the scene both in his backyard in Oak Park and Los Angeles simultaneously, the young footworker is certainly in good company to make his presence felt for some time.
“It’s really important to keep people engaged. People don’t really always see dance as its own artform. They kind of do, but not that’s a part of current culture,” said Eastwood. “That’s what I’m a part of, this is my way of relating to my generation, my friends, my people that I’m in love with; everyone.”