Creative artists shine at Jazz Dance World

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It was in many ways a true Jazz Dance World Festival, hosted by Giordano Dance Chicago and Point Park University Aug. 1-4 at Point Park during the day and the Byham Theater at night.

More than 600 students and teachers participated, giving it a festival atmosphere from the start. Two of the 10 performing companies came from Japan and Mexico, lending it a global flavor, and sixteen emerging choreographers vied for cash prizes in the International Choreography Competition.

But was it jazz?

But there was no doubt that the Giordano company still held onto the low-slung, muscular style advocated by its founder, Gus.

With the passing of her father, a pioneer during the '50's, Nan Giordano holds the artistic reins these days.

With her company functioning as organizer and host, it played a dominant place in four Byham performances, opening and closing the festival and showcasing no less than six works from its repertoire.

That was the connecting link on the program -- a bold, all-American attitude to the dance. Koresh Dance Company was similarly weighted, perhaps too hard-hitting, though, in the mechanically minded "Out/line" and a frenetic "Bolero." Even Philadanco, using a large table for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," focused on punchy athleticism over and under the furniture piece.

Japan's Masashi Action Machine did just that, teasing the audience's perception of dance -- there was a precisely flexible style with high, high extensions and a ton of acrobatics.

Monterrey Mexico's Cuerpo Etereo Danza Contemporanea had more of a plush modern dance interpretation in "Contemplados," set to Philip Glass, and "Venides de Ninguna Parte," that oozed style.

On a local note, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre made an appearance in segments from Dwight Rhoden's "Chromatic," which related to the idea of jazz syncopation, albeit to a Bach score. Unfortunately under-rehearsed, the company looked tentative.

August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble contributed Kyle Abraham's "Function," which looks better and better in each encore performance with its street-savvy choreography. Along with PBT, these two companies were light years ahead of the others with their edgy choreography, a real sign of the future of dance.

But prospects were also bright for the International Choreography Competition, where at least half of the pieces were worthwhile projects.

If the Jazz Dance World Festival proved anything, it put out a big statement that dance is just one big melting pot these days.

It was entertainment plus -- a low center of gravity that produced high energy and a boisterous love affair between the performers and their audiences.


Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: She also blogs at


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