Giordano Dance Chicago ignites the Harris Theater (Review)

Ok, maybe it’s too soon for a pun about fire at the Harris, but in the last moments of the electrifying Sabroso I swear I saw smoke coming from the heels of Giordano Dance Chicago (GDC)’s dancers.

Bella Voce and GDC in Mist. Photo by Gorman Cook
Bella Voce and GDC in Mist. Photo by Gorman Cook

In an eclectic Spring program, ¬†older works appeared with the anticipated world premier of Autumn Eckman’s Mist. Mist was created through a collaboration with the acclaimed vocal ensemble Bella Voce as a tribute to the life of Kevin Flynn. Flynn, a long time supporter of GDC, passed away in 2013. It’s difficult to criticize anything that is so apparently personal and meaningful to the performers, and many of the audience members, last weekend at the Harris. So while some choices made my nose turn up a bit, it was easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of this requiem, particularly at the end. The dancers merge with the singers of Bella Voce, the chords turn from dissonance to resonance, and a beautiful pas de deux off to the side of the cast leaves a woman left alone on stage (perhaps representing a family member left behind??) as the man fades into obscurity out of the light. It was a moment that made me hum. You know, one of those “hmmmmmm” moments.

The rest of the program was mostly fun, energetic, and technically dazzling – par for the course with Giordano. Attending a studio preview a few months ago, I gained a new appreciation for GDC: their studio is the size of a bowling alley, and the way they were able to translate blocking to the large stage at the Harris was really impressive. Also, they are always, always, clean, crisp, rehearsed, well-dressed, and high class. It wasn’t clear to me until my studio visit that Nan Giordano is the person who makes that happen. I asked if she had a rehearsal director… she said, (paraphrasing), “You’re looking at her.” For this woman to maintain such a high standard of excellence for so many years is admiral, particularly for a company of this size.

Plus, they are all really nice (and yes, that actually matters).

It was enjoyable to see older works, as in the 2002 Like 100 Men, Jon Lehrer’s classy jazz quintet for the men, and a revival of the visually stunning 2001 work Taal.¬†Nan Giordano rarely choreographs, and Taal was brought back on special request from the Flynn family. White silks hanging from the rafters are twisted and twirled like smoke from a hookah in this middle-eastern influenced dance created after 9/11.

Martin Ortiz Tapia and Maeghan McHale in Nan Giordano's Taal. Photo by Gorman Cook.
Martin Ortiz Tapia and Maeghan McHale in Nan Giordano’s Taal. Photo by Gorman Cook.

The diversity of the rep featured the versatility of the dancers, and their capacity for both drama and levity. One thing is clear. GDC is still a strong force to be reckoned with in the Chicago dance community. The house was packed. Audiences rose to their feet for multiple curtain calls. They might rehearse in a bowling-alley-sized-studio in Chinatown, but downtown Chicago is obviously still in love with Giordano Dance Chicago.

Author: Lauren Warnecke

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter for NPR affiliate station WGLT and freelance arts and culture critic, primarily reviewing dance for the Chicago Tribune. Lauren enjoys cooking, cycling and attempting to grow things in her backyard. She lives in central Illinois.

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