Live review: Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago: LiveLife.DANCE!
It’s easy to love the dancers of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. In all six of the pieces on its “LiveLife.DANCE!” program October 22 and 23 at the Harris Theater, they chewed up the stage and held nothing back. This company may date from the midway point of Richard J. Daley’s administration, but its current members are young. Each time the curtain rises, it does so on a bottomless well of youthful energy that could sell salt to a slug. This is important, because the works GJDC is showing aren’t wildly inventive.
Granted, they don’t ask for more than your enjoyment of them, and rub generously at pleasure centers. Formations shift, subgroup, dissolve and coalesce; taking in the spatial patterning is often more satisfying than noticing the choreography. Dancers enter and exit the stage constantly, making 10 look like 20 (in a revival of Brock Clawson’s 2009 Give and Take) and 20 look like 40 (in new artistic associate Autumn Eckman’s world premiere, Yes, And…). An abundance of canons keeps the eye flying.
If the raw movement material were as inventive as the way it’s arranged, “LiveLife.DANCE!” might be the most exciting show of the year.
Most events, however, announce their arrival from a mile away. Sometimes, the effort isn’t even made to integrate a preparatory step, thus we see, briefly but still, a dancer stop, take his or her position, then launch into a triple pirouette, fancy jump or overhead lift. There’s another layer of choreography missing here, the work of kneading phrases until that triple pirouette or fancy lift takes your breath away because you never saw it coming. There’s little masking the mechanics of dancing, yet that’s what makes dance magical, and choreography art.
Fever dream of tortured relations Give and Take looks better now than it did exactly one year ago, and its strong finish—the women throw their male partners at the floor and toward us, snapping tension built throughout on a note of self-empowerment—still pays off. Branimira Ivanova’s grey and deep purple costumes are simple and chic, an interesting counterpoint to her equally-terrific designs for Karen Mareck Grundy’s remedial Journey In (bright print dresses and casual menswear) and Rennie Harris’s still oddly empty I Want You (suspenders, knee socks and sexy haberdashery). Ron De Jesus’s Prey (2003), a blood-red tornado of absurdly difficult dancing to a crescendoing assault by Japan’s Kodo drummers (recorded), is the program’s main course and best piece I’ve seen by the now-NYC-based choreographer and longtime Chicago dancer. A chef would interpret it as some tweak on a classic guilty pleasure, made slightly spicy and topped with melted cheddar. There’d be enough to feed four.
Eckman’s new duet, A Little Moonlight, is a pleasant occasion to show off Jarrett Kelly and Maeghan McHale, two superb dancers and terrific turners. As they cruise around the stage riffing on ballroom forms and old movie musicals, they seem bound by an invisible rubber band: the further they part, the more forcefully they come back together. I’m not sure what Emilie-Claire Barlow’s spin on the Harry Woods standard is trying to fix—Billie’s take warn’t broke—but Eckman interprets it with a satisfying spread of relationships between movement, music and lyrics in a manner reminiscent of Harrison McEldowney. Yes, And…, alternately, starts promisingly, but grand scale gets the better of her and, by its end, Eckman is running dancers across the stage in recital-simple lines. Also, the a capella music by Brazil’s Barbatuques is less without the fun of watching them make it.