Giordano Dance Chicago on Fire at Harris Theater

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Giordano Dance Chicago’s fall engagement at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance ran for just two nights this past weekend, and to describe just how dazzling the company looked is sure to trigger regret in all those who may have missed the performances. Those who were there (and Friday night’s audience contained a spirited contingent of about 500 students who turned instantly from noisy to spellbound once the lights dimmed) will simply consider themselves exceptionally lucky.

The company, which invariably dances as if there is no tomorrow, looked more stunning than ever, as did the younger second company, which strutted its stuff in one ideally crafted world premiere and suggested there is plenty of talent on the way up, too.

“EXit4,” a world premiere by Israeli-born, Philadelphia-based choreographer Roni Koresh, certainly revealed the influence of Ohad Naharin, that daddy of all contemporary Israeli choreographers whose work holds a prominent spot in the repertoire of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. There are the similar hard, aggressive edges and pumping fists, the ritualistic energy, the surprising bits of sexy interplay and romance, the palpable tension between men and women, the dramatic mood swings, the edgy dynamic between the group and the individual, the occasional bursts of verbal “nonsense,” the driving music. But Koresh puts his own stamp on it all, too.

Dressed in various black and white costumes by Branamira Ivanova, the 10 dancers threw themselves into this difficult piece with ferocity and conviction. The power team included Laurel Bashore, Devin Buchanan, Zachary Heller, Katie Rafferty, Sean Rozanski, Rachael Berube, Joshua Blake Carter, Maeghan McHale, Ashley Rockwood and Martin Ortiz Tapia.

The program’s opening work, Kiesha Lalama’s 2011 piece, “Alegria” (to the music of Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Mexican duo who specialize in playing fast, rhythmic acoustic guitars), was a real beauty, again involving the full company. Lalama has a wonderful gift for grouping her dancers and creating unusual patterns. And at moments, dressed in rosy-brown leotards, the dancers looked and moved like a flock of jazzy, high-speed migrating birds. This piece has wings.

Brock Clawson’s “Give and Take,” to the music of A’ME and Trentemollen, was an exercise in high-ferocity relationship drama — love, hate, lust, dismissal — danced with heat and relentless commitment. Autumn Eckman’s “commonthread,” had a more spiritual aura as five dancers moved to an original score by Dan Myers and John Ovnik infused with South Indian-like rhythms.

Providing a brief second act breather for the main company was another new work — Eckman’s “Moving Sidewalks” — expertly danced by Giordano II (Leah Chilcutt, Ashley Downs, Casey DiPersio, Adam Houston, Christopher Marosi, Alexa Meissner, Joe Musiel and Natasha Overturff).

Fittingly set to the richly rhythmic music of Pulse Percussion Ensemble — with the dancers outfitted in rust-toned overalls — the piece was a clever, highly energetic, abstract riff on a bit of local history. Apparently, in the 19th century, Chicago’s working class Pilsen neighborhood was plagued by flooding that necessitated the raising of its roads, houses and sidewalks. Think of a Fernand Leger painting and you will have some idea of Eckman’s approach to the hard labor and construction required.

For a truly grand finale — and a total shift of mood and technique — the full company returned to the stage for Liz Imperio’s irresistible “La Belleza de Cuba” (“The Beauty of Cuba”). This is the second time I’ve seen the Giordano dancers perform this piece and by now they have so thoroughly embraced the seductive, virtuosic aspects of the work that you begin to wonder if they took a field trip to Havana in the interim. Without question, even better than a mojito.


Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic

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