Remember that really fun time when everyone lingering at the dinner table started playing spoons or pinging their glass to make a beat?
Or how you pretended you were a wind-up doll or robot?
Or cranked up Tina Turner to the highest volume letting it all hang out as you jumped on and off couches and chairs dancing all over the living room?
And also, of course, how you imagined yourself sexy as all get out when you mustered the nerve to flirt with the one who would become the one???
Giordano Dance Chicago is About Joy
Whomever invented jazz dancing certainly had these sorts of joys front-of-mind, and nearly six decades ago it was Gus Giordano who started distilling the genre into delightful performances for Chicagoans. The delight continues a few times a year at Harris Theatre. This fall program dubbed Live in the Momentum, showcased dancers probably less than half the age of the troupe itself performing both a world premiere and five other treasured works from their repertoire. All of the aforementioned joys seemed to inspire one or another performance in the program.
If you love dance that has a sense of humor this is your troupe.
Todd Clark’s Lighting Design certainly added to the immediate feeling of whimsy as he flicks a spotlight on and off dancers who roll onto the stage from the sides – showcasing frozen poses-- a crooked leg here, a flailed arm there. This was Sidecar (2004), choreographed by Mark Swanhart, an energetic opener with four movements, reminding at times of mechanical toys like wind-up dolls. This was choreography that telegraphs that Giordano dancers are at play when they perform.
With quite different music—Pachabel’s Canon in D major played by Winston Marsalis—Loose Canon, a play on words title, by choreographer Jon Lehrer, similarly lets the dancers show just how loose they are by letting them spice their moves with stiff echoes of mechanical systems.
For this writer though, it’s when the ensemble magic happens in Jolt (choreographed by Autumn Eckman based on a concept and structure from Nan Giordano) that we truly begin to experience Giordano as a joy machine. They do begin by banging on cans, and then continue to play with those cans in myriad ways, until the percussive flavors let them erupt into cross-stage romps.
Watch this short snippet, courtesy of Giordano’s Vimeo channel--
Perhaps as a setup to the full tilt explosion that was the world premiere finale, the post intermission performance of Peter Chu’s 2016 Divided Against gave this writer, as perhaps others, a chance to reflect that the line between jazz dancing per se and other contemporary dance has blurred over time. Galaxies beyond the lindy hop or Broadway moves, this is a work you can picture any Balanchine+ ballet troupe taking on as well.
Here is a rehearsal clip of this piece---
It was also a chance for the Giordano dancers to show that their athleticism is on par with the ballet rock stars of The Joffrey or American Ballet Theatre. In particular, and at the risk of sounding unappreciative of his singular talent, long limbed Devin Buchanan’s presence on the stage seems to shout, “Hey, Fabrice Calmels, I got the goods too!”.
If one had any doubt that these Giordano dancers were athletes plus, it certainly became abundantly clear , at least to this writer, that when the dancers ran through the aisles in the world premiere finale Soul by TV-famed choreographer Ray Leeper, we were amdist nearly super-human physiques. These were moves inspired by Tina Turner’s energy and with similar no pant-in-sight despite the prestissimo beat. How fun!
Tip—don’t try to sneak out early before the rounds of curtain bows. The dancers ham it up and spice it up with personal signatures that ensure they endear themselves and leave you smiling as you walk out of whimsy and back to the everyday.
To learn more about Giordano Dance and their upcoming performances, visit the Chicago Giordano Dance website.
Photos: Gorman Cook Photography
About the Author:
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.