Jazz Dance World Festival Opens Strong with Byham Performances

Article excerpt

The Jazz Dance World Festival hit the high notes at its opening concert Wednesday night, a smorgasbord offering seven dance companies.

The festival was founded in 1992 by Giordano Dance Chicago, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As host group, Giordano Dance opened the evening and showed just how much there is to celebrate in its anniversary.

"Pyrokinesis" uses eight dancers performing to music by George Winston and United Future Organization in a dazzling display of jazz- dance idiom. Gus Giordano not only founded the company now run by his daughter Nan, he also developed specific techniques for this style.

"Pyrokinesis" was choreographed by Christopher Huggins, whose powerful and imaginative creation uses a wide vocabulary. The dancers brought immense energy and impressive technique to this piece, with spins and leaps that caught the breath. Yet, it is the jazzier moves that are most memorable -- a different sense of curves and sharp angles of movement, the lateral flexibility of the torso and the bursts of movement that push the rhythm the way a good drummer does.

In the later portions of the piece, it is even structured like a jazz band chart. As the rhythm section chugged ahead, groups of dancers and soloists came forward the way saxophones or trombones or solo trumpet might.

If Giordano Dance set a standard that would not be surpassed all evening, the following performance was no letdown either. Odyssey Dance Theatre from Salt Lake City offered a duet to, of all things, an abbreviated version of the second movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. No jazz there; it was in the dance.

Choreographer Derryl Yeager's "Solimbula" begins as stolidly as the Beethoven music does, but as soon as the first note of lyricism sounds, the dance blossoms. …