The new work Take a Gambol is a jaunty, rollicking tribute to late 50s and early 60s pop/jazz scene that existed at the time Giordano Dance Chicago was founded fifty-five years ago. The company’s eight male dancers preen and strut their way through Joshua Blake Carter’s doo-wop inspired choreography, albeit with much more ambitious kicks and lifts. The piece fit in perfectly with the overall tone of the spring series of Giordano Dance’s 55th season, which played at the Harris Theatre on March 23rd and 24th. In a surprise appearance, executive director Michael McStraw, singing and accompanied by a guitar, dedicated the performance to longtime artistic director Nan Giordano, the daughter of founder Gus Giordano. Warmth exuded from the stage the entire evening, which is not to say that the darker or more contemplative tones of some of the other pieces were compromised. Rather, a closer relationship between the audience and dancers was established.
Giordano Dance Chicago Starts Dark and Seductive
The evening began with a revival of 2009’s Give and Take, choreographed by Brock Clawson. Featuring five male-female pairs, it starts off with a reverberating drone that creates a hazy, overheated atmosphere that lasts throughout the piece. Men and women ooze their way across the floor, lusting for each other, teasing, retreating in repulsion, and colliding together again with explosive results. Lighting by Kevin Dreyer provides a tight red-orange focus with a sinister quality. Seldom does a piece seem to affect the humidity of the theatre as much as this one.
Take a Gambol provided a welcome relief in between the first piece and Ray Mercer’s Tossed Around, which debuted last year. Featuring the company in a circle that looks like a group therapy session, this high energy piece has a quality that is both jerkier and more delicate. The music of Sbongiseni “Bongi” Duma morphs from staccato violin and choral notes to a sharp, broken piano. Dancers Ashley Downs and Adam Houston form a connection that seems painfully vulnerable as their movements are mostly restricted to a narrow frame. But it also has its playful moments, including some rather thrilling chair tosses such as one might see in a circus.
From Pastoral to Frenzied
This production’s other world premiere was Hiding Vera, choreographed by Davis Robertson. The most tranquil piece, it features the entire company and music by Kevin Mileski. In summery costumes by Nathan Rohrer, the softly smiling dancers couple and drift apart, in notable contrast to the Give and Take. And while the male dancers were featured earlier in the night, the five women were spotlighted in excepts from 2015’s Crossing/Lines. Ronen Koresh’s choreography was relentless, with the dancers pushing their extremities to their limits in settings ranging from a cabaret to a pair of women seemingly just rocking out on their own to thrill themselves. It even left the audience winded.
A Close Dance Family
The final piece of the night, and a perfect closer, was Christopher Huggins’s 2007 Pyrokinesis. It allowed each of the thirteen dancers to display their classical training separately with feats such as dazzling pirouettes. In doing so, it also allowed the audience to cheer each dancer’s individual talents, after having watched them slip into so many other roles throughout the night. It’s hard to make the massive Harris feel intimate, but in a night filled with personal tributes to the people who have seen Giordano Dance Chicago through fifty-five years, that’s just what the spring series did.
Learn more about upcoming events at the Giordano Dance Chicago website.
About the Author: Jacob Davis
Jacob Davis has lived in Chicago since 2014 when he started writing articles about theatre, opera, and dance for a number of review websites. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Theatre, where he specialized in the history of modernist dramatic literature and criticism. While there, he interned as a dramaturge for Dance Heginbotham developing concepts for new dance pieces. His professional work includes developing the original jazz performance piece The Blues Ain’t a Color with Denise LaGrassa, which played at Theater Wit. He has also written promotional materials for theatre companies including Silk Road Rising.
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