Giordano Dance Company is wonderful…as usual

Review by Samantha Robison

Giordano Dance Chicago celebrated their 60th anniversary in uplifting, feel-good style. “Catch the Light” flooded the Harris Theater stage with athleticism and choreographic precision. The audience was eager to soak up every ounce of incredible jazz the company had to offer. 

The two-hour performance took us all on a journey, just as Nan Giordano, artistic director and daughter of founder Gus Giordano, had promised in her onstage forward address. Alongside Michael McStraw (executive director), Joshua Blake Carter (operations manager, director Giordano II), & Cesar G. Salinas (associate artistic director), the company’s six-decade adventure was outlined with passion and pride. With clear and profound respect for their grassroots beginnings, they honored the work and the people that helped elevate GDC to its current stature and rightful place in American jazz dance.

It was incredibly fitting, and a perfect way to present the evolution of GDC, to begin the show with a restructured piece that pays tribute to the late Gus Giordano. Giordano Moves showcases the founder’s timeless technique. The jazz score beautifully highlights individual instrumentation, which is matched meticulously to the movement. The opening notes of a solo saxophone revealed Adam Houston in a single pool of light to begin the piece, exposing more dancers upstage as Kevin Dreyer’s lighting design cast daylight on the rest of the company. It was admittedly hard to draw my eyes away from Houston at times and give my attention to the full scope of the piece. He is a ten-year company member and extraordinarily talented, and he fully personifies Giordano’s technique with confident presentation and skillful artistry. 

Act One included two more pieces, commonthread and Impulse. I was confused by the inclusion of commonthread as part of the program. It didn’t quite fit with the overall mood of the evening. The piece itself is adequate. The music and choreography were knotty and disjointed and I felt ready to move on to the next piece soon into it. Unexciting costuming unfortunately fell under the lackluster umbrella of this Autumn Eckman piece.

Impulse quickly remedied the lackluster mood of its predecessor. Highly energetic, this piece was a flurry of bodies in motion. With intricate blocking and technically demanding choreography, I was captivated from start to finish. Nan Zabriskie’s costume design is brilliant. The dancers are minimally clothed so that the audience can truly appreciate the momentum of a human body as it engages, connects, absorbs, and transfers energy. Tony Powell’s original 2006 choreography was reconstructed this year by Cesar G. Salinas. My advice to every dancer and dance-lover is to remember this name! A GDC company member from 2006-2011, Salinas is a clear rising star among the ranks of great American choreographers. His new piece lub-dub, which premiered in Act Two, was perfection. All the planets aligned with his vision. Jacob Snodgrass’ lighting and Jordan Ross’ costuming completed a beautifully choreographed expression of the rhythm of a heartbeat, performed by four men, who were brilliant in this world premiere.

I was delighted that the performance was capped off with a crowd-pleasing number. Soul had the audience on their feet. Familiar music from Motown giants Gladys Knight, Al Green, and Tina Turner ensured that we all left the theater feeling superb. Company members Brittany Brown & Ashley Downs were standouts with their capacity to illustrate expression. Soul was a fabulous end to a celebratory evening of dance.

The greater Chicagoland area is so fortunate to have Giordance Dance. Its rich history and continued focus on spreading the love and joy of American jazz dance is a gift to the performing arts community. 

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