It was a rain-filled day on Saturday, October 28th. But inside the Harris Theater, an energized spirit poured from anticipating audience members. Groups of children walked around with big smiles on their faces, active members of the Chicago Dance Community were reunited, and older generations were there to have an enjoyable evening out. Even here, in the lobby and theater prior to the show, it was clear that the evening was meant to be celebratory night for dance, passion, and community.
Giordano Dance Celebrates Life
Giordano Dance Chicago: Be Bold, See Bold made an impact with an array of work, both old and new, with one clear message: celebration of life. Each piece highlighted the triumphs and joys that life instills, whether individually or communally.
Flickers choreographed by Marinda Davis (2019) spoke volumes and left a lasting impression long after the show. Audible affirmation was heard throughout the crowd as the curtain lifted showcasing a dimly lit stage where dozens of industrial bulbs hung low from the rafters. The performers lay on their backs, furiously cycling their legs as if trying to run towards the light but making no stride. As the bulbs retract upward, the piece progresses with soloist, Jacob Frazier, as he tries to overcome obstacles; searching for light amid all the darkness. At one pivotal moment, the soloist becomes surrounded by the group as they shout and jerk him around. The group immobilizes Frazier. The burden becomes too much. He collapses.
Then, personal grit is highlighted. Dancers lift one another overhead as they reach towards the light. They execute fast gestural moments as a unit. They use pure physicality, as they throw themselves across the stage. We feel the inner turmoil of these dancers, and their perseverance as they move forward.
In the midst of the piece, our heart is breaking. The music and movement is raw. The struggle is so real. Yet, Davis brings us through the journey.Nearing the end, the music builds as the singer repeatedly chants “This moment changes everything”. We feel hope. Suddenly, the scrim lifts, and the lights kick on full voltage. We now clearly see the group against a blazing white background. The stage is completely bathed in light, with the bulbs twinkling alongside the music; it is a powerful moment. Clothed in white, the ensemble seems resolute. The soloist gains in momentum. By the time the curtain drops, the hopefulness and reassurance of making it through dark times is tangible.
We read in the program that the choreographer has overcome serious health issues and this piece is a tribute to her fight, making this work that she has created all the more powerful and significant.
Over the course of the evening, we are exposed to many of the different ways in which to celebrate life. Sabroso,choreographed by Del Dominguez and Laura Florez, was split into five sections, each a different style of ballroom: Cha Cha, Bolero, Latin Swing, Rhumba, and Mambo. Equipped with disco balls hanging from above, this lively piece had the audience moving along in their seats. Women were dressed in vibrantly colored dresses and ballroom heels, while men looked dapper in cocktail attire. Soaking up the pulse of the music, the performers enter stage and have one big party, from beginning to end. Smiles erupt on their faces as they clap along to the beat; the jubilation and sense of community portrayed is the essence of this piece. Woven into the end of the number was the bow which included all the dancers cha-cha-ing their way downstage, stopping right in front of the audience, and striking a pose.
The evening’s program also included the revival of Alberto Arias’s Surrender, which had not been performed for more than 18 years. It highlights breath-taking duets and solos, touching on love and relationships. Yet what makes it especially impressive—at least to this writer-- is how it stands the test of time. Created in 1999, it is still very much relevant and influential, celebrating how art is a vital part of life, and how it can connect with an audience on an emotional level over the course of a lifetime.
The world premier of renowned choreographer, Peter Chu was highly anticipated. Most would likely agree that it did not disappoint. Groove, in formed highlights individuality, which is a key component in jazz dance, and especially with steps and polyrhythms. With a plain stage, and all performers dressed in khaki pants and maroon tops-- an understated yet clean look-- the focal point was solely on the movement.. The dancers entered on to the stage and manipulated one another’s bodies in ways that got them moving to their own beat. We sat captivated as the dancers seamlessly transitioned around the stage, dancing from solos to duos, small groups to full company, all the while keeping an impeccable syncopated beat in motion with their bodies. Chu’s choreography highlights the importance of individuality, and the strength that each component adds to a whole (community).
With the closing number Can’t Take This Away-- a 1997 renewal choreographed by Randy Duncan-- the audience sat spell-bound while the piece started in the dark. We hear the voices of The Bournés, a superb acapella group, singing about light and love. Cue the dancers -- they fearlessly bound onstage from the wings garbed in beautifully flowing dresses and pants in deep tones of pink and red.
This piece seemed to this reviewer to be the perfect choice to close the show.It unites singers + performers, and showcases the courage these performers selflessly give. It only seemed fitting that this night culminates with the performers making their way down the aisles,then finishing the piece as the house lights came up. By dancing in the seating area to close the show - quite literally breaking the fourth wall - Girodano Dance Chicago allowed the patrons to celebrate in their successes. One imagines that this performance as a whole is a gift that will be remembered and savored long after all left the building.
Photos by Gorman Cook Photography
About the Author:
Francesca Baron is a freelance Chicago based choreographic + performing artist. Graduating cum laude with dual degrees in Dance and Psychology from Lindenwood University. Francesca is drawn to dance because it allows for dynamic expression through the instrument of one’s body. Making it a priority to travel and train in leading modern/contemporary dance forms, Francesca has attended The American Dance Festival (NC), One Body, One Career intensive (Amsterdam, NL), FACT S/F workshop (CA), New Dialect intensive (TN), LINK Dance Festival (UT), and Detroit Dance City Festival (MI), as well as many Chicago festivals and intensives. She has also been commissioned to create works for Inaside Chicago Dance, Esoteric Dance Project, New Dances 2019, and Lindenwood University. Currently, she is a company member of Still Inspired(?) as they prepare for their sixth season.
Learn more about Francesca at Francesca Baron website