Run, slide, swing, jump, but don’t just walk to see Giordano Dance Chicago’s (“GDC”) 2018-2019 season fall program, “Live in the Momentum”, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago’s Millennium Park. America’s original jazz dance company, GDC brings fresh ideas, a sense of humor, thought-provoking imagery and wonderful dance to a wide audience. This is an evening of beautiful, funny, serious and very well executed choreography. The company’s dancers are truly together as a company, and at the same time, they perform with the individuality that jazz dance allows.
The show started with three very different works, each done with humor and a positive vibe. That did not mean that GDC didn’t take the dance seriously. Throughout the evening the company beautifully executed fast and innovative step sequences in a high energy, well-executed show. First up was “Sidecar” (2004) with choreography by former Hubbard Street Dance Chicago company member, Mark Swanhart, and music from The Platters, Yann Tiersen, John Brion, and Solex. With a nod to music from the 50’s, this is boy meets girl Americana, and GDC’s Maeghan McHale brings the piece to life. Costumes by Branimira Ivanova were fun and added to the swing. The piece includes a ladder which was interesting but never fully integrated into the dance. While there was no question that this was rock & roll, it was as whimsical as the “Nutcracker’s” Columbine and Harlequin.
The second piece is a classic theme, the awakening of a sleeping dancer. We all have trouble waking up in the morning, but just thinking about Jon Lehrer’s great choreography in “Loose Canon” (2006) will help. The name of this piece is a subtle play on words as the music is Pachelbel’s Canon in D major played by Winton Marsalis. The music moves from the strictly classical, to something loose, modern and edgy. The dancers were an elegant match to Pachelbel’s composition and when the tempo changed they picked up the pace. The staging and costumes were a study in white, and the linear lighting design by Kevin Dreyer enhanced the entire piece.
It is still morning in JOLT (2012) with choreography by former GDC Assistant Artist Director, Autumn Eckman, concept and structure by GDC Artistic Director Nan Giordano and an original score by Evan Bivins. The piece opens with the dancers silhouetted, each owning their own space with lighting design by Kam Hobbs. The lighting gave dimension to the dancers, making them appear to be on different levels across the stage. The score features each dancer with a different take on percussive music using thermal mugs, coffee pots, and other kitchen implements. Nina G.’s costume design had the men in skirt’s and the women in trousers, This composition is a study in work-life balance and the outsized role coffee plays in the life of millennials. It is exciting, engaging and on target. Katie Rafferty is a joy to watch as she puts everything into her performance.
The mood turns more serious with “Divided Against” (2016), choreography by Peter Chu and an original music score by Jean-Francois (Djeff) Houle. The program asks, “What is your Reaction?”, to this very existential, well-danced piece, and the audience responded in the positive.
The evening’s rousing close was the entire company in the world premiere of “SOUL” by award-winning choreographer Ray Leeper of “So You Think You Can Dance,” “X-Factor UK,” and “America’s Got Talent” fame. This piece, danced to the epic music of Glady’s Knight and the Pips, Al Green and Tina Turner, vied for best of the night with JOLT. Even though this number came at the end of the show the energy was palpable. The GDC Company was almost flawless in this number with a standout performance by Devin Buchanan. Once again, GDC gets the lighting right with a great design by Jacob Snodgrass.
Photos: Courtesy of Giordano Dance Chicago
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