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Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago

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The company presents a gift to its founder, Gus Giordano, with the new Giordano Moves. It's also a gift to us. Associate director Jon Lehrer was driving home with another dancer from a gig when they started talking about why audiences don't seem to appreciate Gus's choreography as much as the performers do. Lehrer decided the solution was to create a more contemporary, abstract work that included all the facets of that early-jazz-dance style without re-creating any particular dance. Lehrer started by watching hours of video from the 50s to the present, he says, to get the essence of the style. Then current artistic director Nan Giordano, Gus's daughter, offered her input, fine-tuning the moves. Finally the dancers were drilled in the style--in a way retrained--to get it right. That this is a labor of love is evident from the opening image: alone onstage, Lehrer lifts one leg forward, knee bent, then places it carefully behind himself in preparation for the jazz hands and shimmied shoulders that follow. That clarity is characteristic of the piece, set to an original jazz score by George McRae that helps elucidate the principles underlying jazz dance of the 50s and 60s, its clean yet jagged lines and delicate embellishments, the puppy paws and flicked fingers. Also on the program is Margo Sappington's Weewis, created for the Joffrey in 1971 and last performed by the Giordano troupe in 1997; she says she intended its three couples to represent the unrelated inhabitants of a New York brownstone. Mark Swanhart's Sidecar, premiered last fall, is being remounted with new costumes; its cartoonish story is told playfully, with an agreeable looseness at the opposite end of the spectrum from Gus's style. The company also performs Ron De Jesus's Prey, Nan Giordano's Taal, and Randy Duncan's gospel-tinged Can't Take This Away. Opens Thu 3/17, 7:30 PM. Through 3/19: Fri-Sat 8 PM. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, $25-$45.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Canale.

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