Jean Wildest is a multidisciplinary performance artist who blends dance, burlesque, and circus into engaging movement patterns with heartfelt storytelling. They started their career as a self-taught hip hop and modern dancer, but their work evolved when they fell into Chicago’s burlesque community and then the counterculture elements of drag, sideshow, circus, and the “unpalatable” sections of performance art. Through their time as a Haus member of Bad Taste (2017-2021), Jean honed their ability to connect to emotionally-magnetized topics using unexpected mediums. Since 2016, their work has been heavily informed by their identity as a nonbinary transman. Although they don’t stagnate on trans narratives, their transness (and therefore their authenticity and recognition of a self that is aberrant from the norm) is present in all of their work. Most recently, Jean was a Resident Artist in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Dance Residency Open Studio Series (2023), in which they were granted $18,000 to support a 5-month long rehearsal process and multiple public engagements that supported queer community.
Public Recognition (Residencies/Grants/Awards)
Jean Wildest has received public recognition for their work since their choreographic debut in 2014. Most recently, they were awarded an $18k grant and 5 months of rehearsal space through the Chicago Cultural Center's Dance Residency Open Studio Series, which was supported by DCASE, The Walder Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (2023). Jean was previously a resident artist with The Coincidentals, as part of the Mess Hall Residency (2017), and went on to further develop work with the Chicago Theater Marathon (2017).
Jean's artistic contributions have also been recognized through fellowship and scholarship positions. They were part of the Critical Writing Dance Fellowship, supported by See Chicago Dance and Jomba! Festival in South Africa (2021). Jean also received scholarship funding to study with The Actors Gymnasium in the Professional Circus School Program (2021-2022) and with Theater Unspeakable in the Physical Theater Intensive (2019).
Additional recognition includes Jean's nomination as the Best Choreographer of 2019 in The Chicago Reader, for their choreography in "Dorothy Does Oz" producedby PS...Burlesque (2019), and a featured interview with "Empowered Authenticity" (2022).
Jean's multidisciplinary approach takes them all over the globe, including headliner appearances in Madison WI for Mercury Stardust's FiveStar Tease, New York NY with Metropolis Burlesque, Atlanta GA for Frankie Love's top surgery fundraiser, and Nashville TN with The Brass Menagerie. Jean also appears in festivals, including Moisture Festival in Seattle WA and Chicago's own Burning City Festival.
Alongside their solo career, Jean continues to collaborate. They perform and choreograph ensemble work with Modet Dance Collective (2014-present) and Movement Revolution Dance Crew (2016-2019). They worked under Jimmy Valery Robert to devise a performance of Descendance du Nu as part of the Chicago Architectural Biennial at The Chicago Cultural Center (2019). They also worked with The Rational Dress Society for a performance of "A History of Counter-Fashion" at The Museum of Contemporary Art (2017). They additionally collaborated on residencies with High Concept Labs (2017), Pivot Arts (2017) and Links Hall (2015).