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Communications and Marketing
Rohrer praised for costume design
The Lake Forest College Theater Department’s resident costume designer, Nathan Rohrer, was recently mentioned for his work with Giordano Dance Chicago in the Chicago Tribune’s rave review of the dance company.
With group works, jumps and kicks, Giordano Dance Chicago proves it’s jazz dance royalty
By Lauren Warnecke
“How does any organization make it to 55?” asked executive director Michael McStraw on stage at the Harris Theater on Saturday. A valid question, though Giordano Dance Chicago, which McStraw leads with artistic director Nan Giordano, only appears to be improving with age.
History is omnipresent in the 55-year-old dance company, ever-guided by the legacy of founder Gus Giordano. And, having dedicated her life thus far to carrying forward her father’s vision, Nan Giordano celebrates her 33rd year of leadership this season, 25 of those as artistic director. The question of a next generation appears to loom over Giordano Dance Chicago, with artistic programs manager Cesar Salinas and Joshua Blake Carter, who retired from dancing last year and now works as the company’s operations manager, seemingly being groomed to one day take the helm.
I don’t think anyone’s all that worried. All audiences see is a polished and powerful tour de force of Chicago’s dance community that, twice per year at the Harris Theater, consistently brings us to our feet.
And that’s how it was with GDC’s Spring Series on Friday and Saturday. The program was almost entirely composed of full-company pieces, with one dance highlighting the company’s men, and another for the women. The former, a world premiere by Carter called “Take a Gambol,” epitomizes classic American jazz dance. Eight of GDC’s gents entered the house in simple black pants and white tees (by Nathan Rohrer), donning black blazers as they made their way on stage with smirky smiles. The music is a potpourri of big band and jazz — a tip of the hat, perhaps, to GDC’s founding in 1963 with a “Mad Men” vibe. The feeling is more Roger Sterling than Don Draper; this piece is silly and cute, a refreshing departure from the hyper-masculine, shirtless showstoppers we’ve come to expect from GDC’s men.
So it was rather nice that, of these works, the fierier of the two was for the women. Coming second-to-last on this high-energy program, the female-centric bits of Ronen Koresh’s 2015 full-company work “Crossing/Lines” shares characteristics with his “EXit4,” an oft-repeated audience favorite, though it perhaps does not have the same staying power. “Crossing/Lines” is full-bodied, with a deeply grounded center of gravity. Swinging arms and legs work as extensions of a core that seems primed for battle and ready to charge. Gesticulations accentuate the highs and lows of a driving Middle Eastern-flavored musical score. To be clear, this is a raucous, powerful, in-your-face work that oozes girl power. Awesome, but the three sections presented in this excerpt didn’t jell in a way that made sense. Disparate costume changes (by Koresh), which alternate between short camo-print dresses, polka-dotted leggings, and ’90s flouncy shorts and bras, didn’t help that cause.
In the past, I’ve probably scoffed at an entire evening of group works. Give me a duet, a solo, a trio even to break up the wall of bodies and redundancies created when dance goes all out, all night. In this case, however, I found the program’s moods ebbed and flowed in a way that let each work shine.
The higher-octane pieces included last fall’s “Tossed Around,” by Ray Mercer, a Deeply Rooted Dance Theater alum who’s performed in Broadway’s “The Lion King” and is the resident choreographer for New York’s Ailey/Fordham University dance program. Mercer’s influences are crystal clear in this work, which is dripping with drama and difficult equipage (the dancers literally toss heavy wooden chairs across the stage).
Brock Clawson’s 2009 “Give and Take,” and “Hiding Vera,” a world premiere by Davis Robertson, represent the subtler moments of the evening. “Hiding Vera” begins with Adam Houston entering through the Harris Theater’s proscenium, lit dramatically from each side (lighting by Jacob Snodgrass) as he dances on the apron in front of the main curtain. The curtain raises just enough to reveal Ari Israel, who joins Houston as the curtain then rises all the way. This and “Vera’s” other technical tricks, which include midstage drapes coming in near the end of the piece, feel disjointed and unnecessary, though one can’t blame Robertson for trying to pop Rohrer’s shimmery white costumes from a cavernous stage and black floor. Robertson’s work is sweet and sentimental, with pared down, contemporary ballet lines, beautiful gestures and a silky movement quality that hopefully feels as gratifying as it looks. Combined with Kevin Mileski’s heartwarming original score, “Hiding Vera” lacks the punch and gravitas of GDC’s typical rep. Placed here, it’s a very welcome addition, but I wonder about its staying power on future programs.
Christopher Huggins’ “Pyrokinesis” (2007), on the other hand, is enjoying a long shelf life, brought out every few seasons to flaunt the company’s best kicks, leaps, turns and show-stopping pizazz. I’m not being facetious here; I mean pizazz in the best way. A stunning section of contemporary dance unfolds into a rousing closer. “Pyrokinesis” is Jazz, capital J, a nice cap on an already impressive program that reminds us all that Giordano is, and always will be, American jazz dance royalty.
–Chicago Tribune, March 25, 2018