Lights up on a group of women in the middle of a dance floor in a triangular formation. The lighting is full of shades of purple and orange, creating the feel of a dance club. Then the music starts to get louder, and the rhythm of the dancers echoes the pulse of the music. The fans cheer, and the vibrant and exciting start to this performance has clearly done its job in preparing the audience for what is to come.
Giordano Dance Chicago at the Auditorium Theater
For one night only, Giordano Dance Chicago, or GDC, returned to the Auditorium Theater to close the venues 2016/2017 season, as well as Giordano’s 54th season.
GDC is America’s original jazz dance company, and they aim to redefine the definition of jazz dance through their original and creative choreography. As such, their program covered a range of pieces, both old and new, that showcased the breadth of material in this company. The performance included: Lost in this World, choreographed by Liz Imperio; commonthread, choreographed by Autumn Eckman; Exit4, choreographed by Ronen Koresh; Grusin Suite, choreographed by Frank Chaves; A Ritual Dynamic, choreographed by Jon Lehrer; and the world premiere event, Before My Eyes, choreographed by Joshua Blake Carter.
As the world premiere of the night, Carter's piece, Before My Eyes certainly stood out. The gorgeous piece featured the strength of the dancers through minimal and slow choreography. With a haunting background sound and an eerie lighting design by Jacob Snodgrass, the performance as a whole almost felt like it took place under water.
The Auditorium Theater, though gorgeous, creates an exciting challenge for companies to tackle. The large, vast space can have the potential to make the audience feel distant from the action on stage. However, Giordano Dance filled the space wonderfully, and the design choices helped the performances pop, while at the same time making each piece distinct.
Lighting Designer Kevin Dreyer utilizes quick changes and bursts of light in Exit4 to embrace the loud, shocking tones of the music, which made for a thrilling journey for the audience. The piece is comprised of four parts – Face to Face, Crash, Wall, and Wet Stones Full of Light.
Face to Face began with a larger company of dancers on stage, whom Costume Designer Branimira Ivanova dressed in white button down shirts with black bottoms. Dreyer’s design fills the stage with a yellow tinted light, that helps the dancers pop in their more neutral costumes, even adding a bit of a reflection on the floor. Then the first part ends with a loud crash, and a darker lighting floods the stage as a group of male dancers come to the center, ready for Crash. They dance along to a ringing sound amidst the music, that almost sounds like metal. The contrast was striking, and added an exciting element to the overall piece.
Act One: An Excellent Beginning
The progression of the evening was lovely. Each piece felt distinct in its style, and allowed the audience to witness the range of talent in the dancers. For example, the trajectory of Act I of this two-act evening was built in such a way that allowed the audience to appreciate each change in the stage’s overall aesthetic.
Lost in this World showcased the quicker, staccato movement, as well as some incredible partner choreography that transported the audience into a dance club. In contrast, commonthread began slow, with beautiful flowing movement amongst the female dancers. Costume Designer Branimira Ivanova dressed the women in gorgeous dresses that flowed with their every move. This prepared us to take on the large and exciting feel of Exit4, that felt larger than life in its movement and design.
Frank Chaves’ Grusin Suite
Gruisin Suite is another prime example of a lovely collaboration between designer and choreographer. The beginning of Gruisin Suite resembles what feels to be a more typical version of “jazz dance.” In contrast to the more emotional performances that kicked off the night, Chaves piece has a fun feel that the design enhanced. Costume Designer dressed the ensemble in bright blue – complete with tops that even sparkled in Lighting Designer Todd Clark’s cool, blue stage. The dancers’ stage presence shined, adding to the enjoyment of the overall piece.
The piece is split into four sections, and the third features Ryan Galloway and Meaghan McHale. The couple danced beautifully, and showcased amazing chemistry. McHale had solos in multiple pieces throughout the evening, which was also a special performance for her. This night marked her 10th Anniversary in the company, and her expertise, grace, and passion clearly showed.
Beautiful choreography and aesthetically striking made this performance a strong finish for the company’s 54th season. This particular event was one-night-only, but keep an eye out for next June 9, 2018 when Giordano Dance Chicago returns to the Auditorium Theater again.
For more information on Giordano Dance Chicago’s next season please visit the Giordano Dance Chicago website.
Closed on Saturday, June 10.
Running time: 2 hours, with intermission
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E Congress Pkwy
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.