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Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago

By Lynn Colburn Shapiro

Harris Theater for Music and Dance

Chicago, IL
March 9–10, 2012
Performance reviewed: March 10

Kapowie! Bam! Caffeine as metaphor wakes up the stage with a JOLT (premiere) in GJDC’s spring season hit. Is it alarm clocks we hear ticking off the seconds to that inevitable morning start time, or wait, no, those are coffee mugs suspended over the heads of this underwear-clad community, their spoons tapping out a corporate Morse code on the mugs that means only one thing: Wake up and smell the coffee!

Artistic associate Autumn Eckman and company director Nan Giordano’s collaborative romp both jolts and delights with its blend of dancers-as-rhythm-band and props-as-percussion-instruments. Dancers guzzle their morning fix and lurch into caffeinated action as they accompany themselves with spoon and mug, punctuating the morning ritual of twitches and jerks with vocal alliteration in Evan Bivins’ ingenious commissioned score. The piece is so captivating when the dancers are making their own music, that one would wish for another sip from that oh-so-delicious first cup. But they would hardly be able to keep up with the rush-hour pace and technical demands of this hair-raising choreography without recorded sound taking over as they accelerate through their super-charged day. Percussive rhythms drive them in their daily commute, complete with traffic jams,  to one–upmanship in the office rat-race. The success of GJDC’s integration of art forms in JOLT certainly warrants another cup of coffee, exploring the meld of movement and music-making in future work.

 

 

Christopher Huggins' Pyrokinesis

 

The strong presence of jazz idioms in both movement and music throughout the evening’s eclectic program brought home company founder Gus Giordano’s original mission to elevate jazz dance to a concert dance form. This was especially apparent in Jon Lehrer’s Like 100 Men (2002), where echoes of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story merged with explosive new-age energy that explored the sensuality and speed in Johnny Frigo’s jazz score. Lehrer’s spatial design made for a constantly shifting palette of group against solo, upstage against downstage, and unexpected visual patterns.


Meaghan McHale was a stand-out in every step she took onstage, but especially her tour de force of angst in Sherry Zunker’s The Man That Got Away (1990). This dancer (a 2010 “25 to Watch”) continues to deepen her range of expression, showing a freedom and expansiveness in her movement, while fine-tuning her stunning technical brilliance. Devin Buchanan and Zachary Heller both shone in Christopher Huggins’ glowing company showcase, Pyrokinesis (2007), concluding the evening in a burst of sheer dance joy that left the audience breathless and ready for more.

 

Pictured at top: the men of GJDC in JOLT. Photo by Kam Hobbs, courtesy GJDC.

Bottom photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy GJDC.