Jazzing it up

Giordano Dance Chicago hopes to make a lasting impression

Giordano Dance Chicago (photo credit: GORMAN COOK)
Giordano Dance Chicago
(photo credit: GORMAN COOK)
In many Western countries, like Israel, dance is a hobby of a large number of young girls and boys.
There are countless styles taught, among them ballet, flamenco, hip hop and tap. Since its emergence in the 1950s, jazz dance has been at the top of that list. With its upbeat rhythms and dynamic movements, jazz has won the hearts of dance students around the world. In recent years, in spite of its consistent popularity in studios, jazz dance has begun to lose its street cred.
“In the dance world, the perception of jazz has become very muddy,” says Nan Giordano, the artistic director of Giordano Dance Chicago. “I just wrote an article about whether jazz dance was still alive. The answer is Yes, it is.”
The daughter of company founder, legendary jazz dancer and choreographer Gus Giordano, Nan grew up surrounded by music and movement. To her, jazz dance was a given, a way of life.
“As a young girl, I was enamored with the company,” she says. “I had the excitement and the bug since I was little. I remember going to shows and thinking, ‘This is what I want to do.’ The thing I remember most is going with my dad while he taught master classes. Seeing everyone going crazy over him, I was so proud. I was very shy as a kid. I was in the background watching and seeing what was happening.”
Nan will lead the company on its first visit to Israel this month as part of the 2015-2016-dance season at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Speaking on the phone before an early morning class, Giordano shared her love of, thoughts on and concerns for the medium she was born into.
“I try to get out and teach, and I see that people are craving to get back to the basics of jazz dance,” she says. “A lot of people ask me if contemporary dance has replaced jazz dance. My answer is that contemporary is not the new jazz dance. It is not taking over, it’s a piece; it means something current, something now. In our world, jazz is thriving. My dancers are going to be the ones that continue and get it out there. If we continue to teach and do what we do, it will continue to stay alive and thrive.”
Giordano is aware that these days, the most common association with jazz dance is TV programs like So You Think You Can Dance.
“I think it’s good that those shows exist because they give dance a wider audience base. There are a lot of great dancers on those shows. But it’s a very flash kind of thing they are doing. We are more interested in foundations, in elegance and great technique.”
For their inaugural visit, Giordano Dance Chicago will present a jampacked program that represents the various styles of jazz dance.
“I want to create a power-packed program so that people can understand and see what Giordano Dance Chicago is. One of the strengths of our company is the depth and diversity and that no piece is like another. We have a range in our styles, from ballroom to contemporary, to classic Broadway jazz,” she explains.
The evening will include five works: Feelin’ Good Sweet by Ray Leeper; Del Dominguez’s Sabrosa; Only Way Around Is Through by former company member Joshua Blake Carter; Ray Mercer’s The Shirt Off My Back; and Roni Koresh’s Exit 4.
“We really love Roni Koresh. In fact, we’ve just had the premiere of the second piece he made for the company. Exit 4 was the first work he made for us, and it was very well received,” she says.
With these five works, Giordano is certain that Israeli audiences will have a lasting impression of Giordano Dance Chicago.
“You’ll see with our company that we create amazing energy on stage. I want the audience to feel us, not just to see us,” she says.
Giordano Dance Chicago will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on November 18, 19, 20 and 21. For more information, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.