3 out of 4 stars
Giordano Dance Chicago is American jazz dance. Founder Gus Giordano created the company in 1963, and today teachers can be certified in the Giordano technique. On June 9th, the company celebrated their 55th season with a one-night only concert at the Auditorium Theater, with a program designed to show the breadth and versatility of the form. The evening offered a solid review of the company’s past, and its current works suggest that its future lies in its continuity with tradition.
Act One opens with a classic Giordano work, Giordano Moves. In Joshua Blake Carter’s Take a Gambol, eight company men play with their jackets: they become jumpropes, bullfighting capes, lassos. In Ray Mercer’s Tossed Around, six dancers perch atop chairs before tossing the chairs to each other and leaping over them. The chairs’ use offers some interesting compositional moments, yet overall the three-part piece lacks clear thematic unity. And what would a jazz show be without bowler hats? Feelin’ Good Sweet, by television darling Ray Leeper, is happy to provide: this is amped-up, sexy Broadway jazz with all the shoulder shimmies, splits, and fishnets you could dream of.
Perhaps my favorite piece of the evening was the one that felt most out of place: Giordano’s 1978 solo Wings. The curtain rises on nine singers clad in white, the Chicago-based Bourné family, performing a haunting version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Guest artist Cesar G. Salinas enters, possessing absolute command of the stage, and performs a gripping dance of spiritual journeying. The most vividly emotional piece of the evening, it seemed dropped straight from an Alvin Ailey concert (who grace the Auditorium Theater’s stage each spring). The evening ends with pulsing energy and unapologetically wonderful showing off with Christopher Higgins’ Pyrokenesis. Here we are treated to the multiple fouettes of Devin Buchanan and impossibly fast turns of Maeghan McHale; this is the mastery of technique and artistry of jazz dance at its finest.
While the dancers were magnificent, the production itself was uneven: the concert was dedicated to artistic director Nan Giordano’s 33-year tenure with the company, and several amateurish videos featured colleagues offering their congratulations. While sweet, this wears thin the patience of the lay concert-goer. The pieces could have benefited from more interesting costume design; in each piece (save Wings) the dancers wore a variation of black.
Giordano Dance Chicago performed one night only, Saturday June 9th, at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy). Call the box office at 312-341-2310 or visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org for more information.
Susanna is a Teaching Artist with Chicago's finest dance education companies, exposing hundreds of students to the art of dance each year. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she was awarded the David Wick Prize for Choreography. Susanna enjoys performing, keeping up with the city's performance scenes, and traveling.