Chicago Dance Review: GIORDANO DANCE CHICAGO (Fall Engagement at the Harris Theater)

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by Lawrence Bommer on October 29, 2016

in Theater-Chicago


The big news from this weekend’s two-night showcase for the jazz-stepping Giordano Dance Chicago is the world premiere of Peter Chu’s roiling new work “Divided Against.” An American dance designer now with Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Chu brings his gymnastic and cheerleader training to Djeff Houle’s driving original score, beginning with muttering textual insertions. (One of many highly percussive backdrops throughout the evening, this was written by the first “electronic musician” for the Cirque du Soleil.)

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With the men in black smocks and the women looking “butcher” by contrast, the result was richly rough, the men convulsively clapping and jumping, the women back-kicking or hulking out with shoulder rolls. The movements seemed barely contained or controlled, almost aborted in midstream. “Divided Against” indeed.


Opening the action, Autumn Eckman’s 2010 “Yes, And…,” set to music by Barbatuques, carried the conditional fascination of its title. Full of funky frenzy and catalyptic when the company wasn’t mysteriously moving to silence, it’s a work of constrained anarchy modeled on theater/comedy improv. As such, the gyrations exploded in rapid-fire reversals, exciting stuff at any speed, especially Giordano’s warp setting.

Following was Sam Watson’s faux-naïve “Hi Jinks,” a 1998 romp that spoofs 60s TV shows with appropriately goofy slapstick. Wearing kids’ falling pants, the ensemble convulsed in campy cuteness. To standards like “Laura” or the Rockettes’ “Parade of Wooden Soldiers” (here grotesquely anatomical), they galumphed in silly sections: “Whatchamacallit,” “Foolin’ Around,” “Laura X’s Three,” and “Fools Parade.” “Hi Jinks” says it all.

Ray Mercer’s “Shirt Off My Back” proved a moody 2015 offering, insistent with jerky, percussive intensity. Full of flux, this all-consuming workout was only slowed down by a serenely serious pas de deux (by Devin Buchanan and Natasha Overturff). A dance stream of relationships that lurch from uncompleted passes to hissy fits, it explored a dozen romances at fast forward or rewind speeds.

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A ravishing duet for the very athletic Zachary Heller and Katie Rafferty, Jon Lehrer’s 2000 creation “Cesura,” like the title, was a constant feat, turning bodies into Legos. Creating the beast with four legs (as the Bard called it), the couple engaged in Kama Sutra-style contortions, neither suffering for a moment from separation anxiety.


Finally—and equally well-named—“Alegria” is Kiesha Lalama’s 2011 exuberance. Packed with kinetic celebration, it’s set to the festive sounds of Rodrigo y Gabriela. Disciplined with dances in perfect tandem for the entire troupe, it imagined joy from all sides, employing the corps’ full range of classical, contemporary, jazz and modern movement to superb advantage. A fitter way (both physically and thematically) to end an acrobatic evening couldn’t be desired.


photos by Gorman Cook

Giordano Dance Chicago Fall Engagement
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Dr. in Millennium Park
ends on October 29, 2016
for tickets, call 312.334.7777 or visit Harris Theater
for more info, call 312.922.1332 or visit Giordano

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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