Chicagoland commuters know what it means to be “on the go.” With help from a little melody and a pair of headphones, the traditional stopping and starting of the daily commute on the CTA becomes a mobile stage onto which passengers saunter on and off to the beat, a sort of mechanical ballet. Of course, the transit system was never intended to appeal to the performance enthusiast, but it was enough to inspire one of Chicago Cable Access television’s “Chic-A-Go-Go”’s many dances, “The El Train,” in which “on the go” becomes “on the go-go” with a little help from some guest performers, a stage, and, most importantly, a group of youthful backup dancers.
Gracing the airwaves since 1996, “Chic-A-Go-Go” is a Chicago-based dance show whose mission is to make your feet move. Although its premise very much resembles that of a kids’ show, including a puppet host named Ratso who tells cheesy jokes alongside his fresh, young co-host Miss Mia, the show’s charm attracts audiences of all ages and from all fronts throughout the Chicagoland area. “Go-Go” has also had its fair share of original performances, which have included both local Chicago artists and big-time musicians ranging from ‘50s and ‘60s jazz and R&B icons to present electronic beat shakers like Dan Deacon–possibly looking for promotional exposure from a not-for-profit organization by signing up for the show but, judging by the pre-recording and lip-synching that performances entail, are most likely just looking for a good place to get down. The same can be said for the dance show’s audience count. Although child-friendly, the show is geared towards those who can consider themselves “kids at heart”; teenagers, parents, and grandparents–anyone willing to make the drive to Chicago Access Network Studios in the West Loop–are guaranteed a good and ample amount of time on the air.
“It’s fun for people to be on television,” says South Shore resident Jake Austen, founder of “Chic-A-Go-Go.” Taking inspiration for the show from past programs such as “Soul Train,” “American Bandstand,” and Chicago’s own “Kiddie-A-Go-Go,” Austen is all about diversity, whether it be music style (and trust me, anything that can be danced to is fair game) or the makeup of his audience. Attendees and performers are encouraged to be as wacky as they’d like so long as kids can see it, and Austen, a father himself, could not be more dedicated to making the show live up to its twelve-year legacy. In fact, over the course of its history, the show has only been cancelled once, which was, coincidently, the day his son Noble was born two years ago. Since then, he’s been dancing around on the show alongside his older daughter Maiya, 5, who has even dabbled in some of her own puppetry. “It’s fun for kids to see how TV is made, I think–and it’s fun for grown-ups to see how TV is made also–but I think it’s nice to demystify TV,” says Austen.
“Chic-A-Go-Go” has over the years danced its way into the hearts of many Chicagoans thanks to its laid-back, fun-loving attitude. “We’re not as concerned about what goes on the air as we are about what’s its like to be on the show,” says Austen, and it’s because of this attitude that people keep coming back every month to check out a taping. Even Pitchfork Media is interested in adding the show to their online TV lineup in the near future, but until then, an array of past episodes is available on YouTube. “People can do whatever they want, and it’s really loose and fun. We do it because it’s a really nice thing to have in Chicago as a part of the music scene. It’s this free party that you can go to once a month.”
For more information about “Chic-A-Go-Go” and how to attend one of its tapings, check out www.roctober.com/chicagogo/