Review: Giordano Dance Chicago—Exuberant, Urban and Avant Garde

When I think of modern or jazz-inspired dance, a few people come to mind. Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, and Katherine Dunham. Giordano Dance Chicago has established itself in my Hall of Fame for originality while keeping the form of mid-century jazz dance. The Giordano performance last weekend was one night only and the finale of the Made in Chicago series at the Auditorium Theatre. It was a fitting cap on a season of beautiful performances.

Giordano Dance Chicago presented performances that seem to be set in an alternative reality. The opening dance is called EXit4 and it was a stunner. The syncopated movements included every part of the body including a bird-like head movement that was perfectly in sync. EXit4 felt primordial with the dancers as extraterrestrials or another human form emerging. This dance was choreographed by Ronen Koresh with movements that emulate pop-locking and break dancing from the '70s and '80s, with all of the raw street feel taken up to a fever pitch.

Ashley Downs in Pyrokinesis. Photo by Christopher Creese.

There were two duets in this performance with the long-time members of Giordano Dance Chicago. All For You was performed by Ashley Downs and Skyler Newcom. Beautiful cello music from Olafur Arnalds accompanied the sensuous and liquid movement of Downs and Newcomb. Their bodies seemed at times to be amorphous with such smooth undulating movement. The second duet is a rowdy and joyful dance choreographed by Ray Mercer called Shirt Off My Back. Amanda Hickey and Fernando Rodriguez perform a pas de deux literally weaving themselves in and out of a shirt. I loved that there seemed to be more than just the two of them as legs intertwined and crossed.

Retroverse was a highlight with primal energy and the sounds of glass breaking. The music, commissioned from composer Dan Myers, featured vocals and various instruments. The lighting design by Jacob Snodgrass was a striking projection of sepia-toned fire escapes and brick walls. The choreography by Autumn Eckman was reminiscent of Jerome Robbins for West Side Story. It has an edgy and urban noir feel to it which in my opinion reflects the times from which we are emerging.

EXit4. Photo by Gorman Cook.

The finale—Pyrokinesis—was choreographed in 2007 by Christopher Huggins. The lighting design by Kevin Dreyer imbued the background with deep reds and blues like different stages of fire. The finale highlighted several dancers in spins and leaps with precision that defied gravity. Giordano Dance Chicago had the crowd whooping and applauding before the end of the dance. It was an exuberant evening that made me wish I could remotely be as cool as the dancers on that stage.

Giordano Dance Chicago has called Chicago home for 59 years and is called America's original dance company. Gus Giordano created a legacy that carries on with his daughter Nana Giordano now at the helm. Their dance school produces dancers that perform on Broadway and all over the world. Giordano Dance Chicago is a cultural institution that makes Chicago a major source of talent for the arts, and one of the truly great cities in the world. Keep an eye out for their next season. They will be moving to a new home in Lincoln Park that will be a center for training and performance. Next time, get tickets and go!

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Kathy D. Hey

Kathy D. Hey writes creative non-fiction essays. A lifelong Chicagoan, she is enjoying life with her husband, daughter and three dogs in the wilds of Edgewater. When she isn’t at her computer, she is in her garden growing vegetables and herbs for kitchen witchery.