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The 2019 Dance for Life Gala at the Audi­torium Theater.
© Todd Rosenberg Pho­tog­raphy 2019

Giordano Dance Chicago company dancer Adam Houston said his expe­rience with Giordano has been life-changing. 

“You could be a dancer involved with it, you could be a board member involved with it, you could be a dance enthu­siast coming to our shows, and it’s truly a life-changing expe­rience once you feel that energy and that soul­fulness of the company, it’s really a beau­tiful thing,” he said.  

Stu­dents, pro­fessors, and members of the com­munity gathered in Markel Audi­torium for this life-changing expe­rience on Sept. 14, at a per­for­mance from Giordano Dance Chicago hosted by the dance department. 

GDC has two com­panies, both led by artistic director Nan Giordano. 

“We’ve got a great show,” Giordano said. “I’m impressed by how the small com­munity embraces dance.” 

The main company, which con­sists of 10 members, per­formed six works and left the audience feeling awestruck.  

Houston has been with the orga­ni­zation for seven years and said he loves per­forming with Giordano because of its diverse reper­toire. 

“We start with ‘EXit4,’ which is a very intense piece, a little more angsty,” Houston said. “And then it goes into ‘Com­mon­thread,’ which is very joyful, about unity and con­nection. And then it goes into ‘Sabroso,’ which is just fun, and it’s snappy.” 

“EXit4,” chore­o­graphed by an Israeli-born artistic director, seeks to convey the tension felt by Israeli cit­izens who are all required to serve for four years in the Israeli Defense Forces as young adults. Throughout “EXit4,” the dancers expressed defiance, pain, and enthu­siasm. Harsh, red stage lighting high­lighted their passion as they danced, shouted, and clapped. 

Holly Hobbs, a vis­iting assistant pro­fessor of dance and the director of the Tower Dancers, said Giordano’s style of dance is dynamic. 

“There’s a wide range of musical styles, a very expressive use of the body; it’s very physical,” Hobbs said. 

After an intense opening work, the company moved into “Com­mon­thread,” which offered the audience a sense of joy­fulness and warmth. The green lighting and whim­sical cos­tumes expressed revi­tal­ization and youth­fulness as the dancers leaped and spun across the stage. 

The company closed the first half with “Sabroso,” a ballroom dance rem­i­niscent of the 1940s com­plete with disco balls hanging above the stage. 

“This is the first time the company has done ‘Sabroso’ in four years,” Houston said. “It’s what Nan likes to refer to as ‘on the shelf,’ where we put pieces away for a little bit then bring them back.” 

Giordano Dance opened the second half with its emo­tional work, “Flickers.” Senior Tower dancer Jenna Wiita sat in on a mas­ter­class with Nan Giordano prior to the company’s per­for­mance. She explained that “Flicker” was chore­o­graphed by Marinda Davis, who has eight autoimmune dis­eases. 

“She’s not nec­es­sarily going to live much longer,” Wiita said. “And the dance is about finding light in dark places. It was so beau­tiful.” 

The stage was dimly lit at the beginning and end of the work with small bulbs hanging from the ceiling, empha­sizing Davis’ theme. The company wore white and demon­strated its physical strength through remarkable lifts with soloist Jacob Frazier. Throughout the work, Frazier took the audience on a journey of self-reflection. His move­ments and facial expres­sions showed joy, fear, pain, anger, and hope. 

Giordano Dance ended the night with a lively per­for­mance of “SOUL.” With their snapping, clapping, and sparkling dress, the dancers moved across the stage and into the audience to get everyone in the audi­torium on their feet. 

The company rehearses from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday every week and per­forms various shows on the weekends. But Houston said he enjoys it, because he loves to perform. 

“Today’s world is so con­sumed by neg­a­tivity, there’s a lot of con­flict out there,” Houston said. “And when you come to our shows, you get sub­merged into a world that’s not like any­thing else in this world. What I love giving to the audience and them walking away with is a sense of feeling. It could be sadness, hap­piness, joy­fulness, it could be a feeling they might not have felt in a very long time, and it brings an emotion out in them.” 

Wiita said she was most impressed by the company’s inten­tion­ality with their move­ments. 

“Every little thing they do is so chore­o­graphed,” Wiita said. “They feel so human on stage, and I’m trying to pin­point how they do it. Part of it is that they acknowledge one another in a very human way. They’re looking at one another as they dance.”