Ellyzabeth Adler founded Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble in 2001 to bring together artists that wanted to inspire positive change in the world through performance. Calling it "performance with a purpose," the company's first project workshopped an adaption of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. This inaugural show tackled the concepts of facing fear of emotional rejection, fear of death, regret of what could be, and the peace that comes with a form of enlightenment - and set a precedent for more than two decades of purposeful work.
Early reviewers pointed out that the cross-disciplinary nature of CDE’s unique performance style kept the audience's attention during pieces whose written form is often difficult to interpret - confirming the need in Chicago's cultural scene for "tanztheatre."
Spurred on by their early successes, Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble received official 501(c)3 status in 2002. In the 20 years since the company’s founding, CDE has created 39 original performance works, hosted 36 other performance companies in 18 festivals of dance, theatre, and art, and worked with more than 655 artists.