Gus Giordano, whose pioneering work as a choreographer and teacher elevated jazz dance to prominence as an American artform, died March 9 in Chicago. He was 84.
The first choreographer to codify a jazz technique and develop a specific vocabulary and style, Giordano spent his life championing the dance form-through his school and company, his groundbreaking text, Anthology of American Jazz Dance (1975), and the Jazz Dance World Congress. "Jazz dance doesn't come in an instant," he said in 1998. "Its skills are developed slowly, incrementally, with discipline and joy, and sometimes pain."
Born in 1923 in St. Louis, August Thomas Giordano discovered dance and jazz music as a 5 year old during a visit to New Orleans. Back in St. Louis, he took classes in ballet and theater dance, and he eventually graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in creative writing and a minor in dance. After college, Giordano danced in Broadway shows such as Paint Your Wagon and On the Town, and studied with Hanya Holm, Katherine Dunham and Alwin Nikolais.
In 1953, Giordano and his wife Peg left New York City for the Chicago area, where they bought a former bowling alley and opened the Giordano Dance School. He launched a company, Dance Incorporated Chicago, in 1962, and its performances were regularly broadcast on Chicago public television. A breakthrough came in 1968, when members of the Bolshoi Ballet, on tour in Chicago, saw the Giordano dancers perform. …