Giordano Dance Chicago | Dance review

Devin Buchanan, Ashley Rockwood, Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia in Autumn Eckman's "G-Force."

Devin Buchanan, Ashley Rockwood, Maeghan McHale and Martin Ortiz Tapia in Autumn Eckman's "G-Force." Photograph: Gorman Cook Photography


The most entertaining dances seem to come from Giordano Dance Chicago. Last night, the company celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Harris Theater, and the troupe was determined to spark something wild in the audience. Athletic dancers get me every time. When I see performers attacking like athletes, I think, “Yes, get it!” The program couldn’t have spelled anything different—even contrasts like Autumn Eckman’s touching solo from the late Gus Giordano, to the feisty finish of the full ensemble.

The night begins with Le Grand Futur Is Here! by Mia Michaels of So You Think You Can Dance fame. Her program headshot is so outrageously over the top, it can’t help but draw attention: her tongue sticking out, her mascara-heavy eyes squinting like some crazed vampire from the Twilight saga. Thank God it’s not a reflection of the piece, a futuristic suburbia dream that GDC performs with aplomb. The male dancers dangle the women over their shoulders, moving like lost souls in purgatory. The energy picks up and the gyrations begin, most notably when one sequence begins with a rope prop. 

Eckman follows with Wings, a solo by Gus Giordano. The piece is short, but touching. Set to a cappella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Joan Baez, the rather melancholy ballad is a nice accent to the flowery white costume and the fluid choreography. And Eckman's legs—wow! They seem to inch higher with each ascending note.

The world premiere of Eckman’s G-Force is like watching science in motion. Two quartets move in perpetual action, like a physics project brought to life. Here, again, we see the athleticism of GDC. In costumes that resemble something from a sci-fi flick, the technique is solid and the choreography is constant. It re-enforces the idea that G-Force is, in fact, “the force of acceleration on a body in motion,” as it says in the program.

Sabroso from Del Dominguez and Laura Flores concludes the first half of the performance. The cast assembles to perform a sweet, but not necessarily substantive fusion of ballroom, flamenco and jazz. It’s fun, lively and gets a good roar from the crowd with its “join us” vibe, though it’s less engaging than the other pieces in the program.

Mark Swanhart’s second half opening number Sidecar is a bit bubbly, but it has its charms. A pedestrian gets lost in his own fantasy, chasing a girl while everything and everybody can’t help but get in the way. The women wear striped socks and doll-like skirts. The men wear overalls, jeans and suspenders, like characters from a fable. A long ladder falls from overhead, which is remeniscient of a Jack and the Beanstalk-type story, about a boy who ventures into someone else’s fantasy and isn’t necessarily the most welcome. 

Gravity follows—a duet from GDC ensemble member Lindsey Leduc. The piece alludes to young romance, almost sappy to a degree, but can be delightfully engaging. The choreography is quite seamless, despite its gushy theme, utilizing the full scope of the stage to bring these two lovebirds together. 

And finally, Jolt, with choreography from Eckman and concept/staging by Nan Giordano, closes the night and proves to be an overwhelming crowd pleaser. The percussive beats of pots and pans, spoons and cups throb in the background, while the GDC troupe bumps and grinds in a STOMP-like rhythm. The energy infuses the theater, and with the exception of some cartoonish line routines across the stage that extend into the wings, the piece picks up and finishes like a clenched fist ready to take a swing. When the curtain falls and the evening ends, there are a lot of grateful, happily satisfied customers. 

The final performance of Giordano Dance Chicago’s 2012 Fall Engagement happens tonight at 8pm at the Harris Theater.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)