CHAMPAIGN – The third annual "Next Dance" celebrating the University of Illinois' retired Chief Illiniwek will take place on UI homecoming weekend.
The event, sponsored by the group Students for Chief Illiniwek, will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Assembly Hall, following the Illini football game against Indiana. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
The event will be shorter than in past years – an hour or less – with fewer speakers and more focus on the Chief's dance, said Samantha Uher, a UI junior and president of Students for Chief Illiniwek.
Ivan Dozier of Ivesdale, a UI sophomore, will perform the Chief's dance. He was chosen in auditions held last spring by Students for Chief Illiniwek.
The event is not sanctioned by the UI, but groups are free to use the Assembly Hall.
The inaugural event in 2008 drew about 10,000 spectators, but attendance dropped off dramatically last year. Students complained that administrators had forced them to reschedule the event from homecoming weekend to Oct. 2, a Friday night, which hurt attendance by alumni. However, it was still a football weekend and coincided with the UI Foundation's annual meeting, when hundreds of donors and alumni visit campus.
In e-mails made public through student Freedom of Information Act requests, administrators made disparaging remarks about Chief supporters and discussed trying to move the event away from Foundation weekend, too. Chancellor Richard Herman eventually vetoed that idea, citing free-speech concerns.
This year, students put in their request in May and it was approved in June without incident, Uher said.
Both "Next Dance" events have drawn protests from critics of Chief Illiniwek, who consider it a racist stereotype and campaigned against it for more than a decade.
Under pressure from the NCAA, UI trustees voted in March 2007 to retire the Chief and stop using Native American images. The Chief's last official performance was at a men's basketball game Feb. 21, 2007.
The last class of students to see the official Chief perform graduated last May. But Uher said Students for Chief Illiniwek has seen an increase in membership this fall and lots of interest from freshman and sophomores, so she's hopeful attendance will rebound.
Tickets for the "Next Dance" are available through the Assembly Hall box office or, beginning Tuesday, at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Admission is $5 for the general public and free for students with an I-card or children ages 12 and under. More details can be found at http://www.studentsforchief.com.
Alumni interested in joining a student band for the "Three-in-One" can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.