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A classic jazz combo: 15th Jazz Dance World Congress.

Last August more than 800 dance fanatics from as far away as Ecuador and the Philippines gathered in Chicago for the Jazz Dance World Congress. Founded by jazz master Gus Giordano in 1990, this five-day event focuses on advancing jazz dance through classes and performances.

New teachers this year included Ray Leeper and Robert Battle, who joined the returning faculty of Joe Tremaine, Randy Duncan, Nan Giordano, Liz Imperio, Jon Lehrer, Judi Sheppard Missett, Pattie Obey, Kirby Reed, Susan Quinn and Billy Siegenfeld from the U.S., plus Masashi Mishiro of Japan. Master jazz men Frank Hatchett and Gus Giordano made special appearances.

Each jam-packed day of classes was followed by two evening performances: the Leo's Jazz Dance Competitive Event, in which choreographers enter their work to compete for a $2,500 prize, and the Jazz Dance World Festival, a concert series showcasing companies from across the country and abroad, both attended by participants and the public. "The festival portion all started with us trying to do performances for registrants, and it has mushroomed into something the public was interested in seeing," says JDWC executive director Ben Hodge, who also serves under the same title for host company Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. Chicagoan Eddy Ocampo, a former Hubbard Street dancer, took first place this year for his piece Gehkko.

The festival programs move beyond classical jazz, veering into contemporary and other styles, says GJDC artistic director Nan Giordano. Her father, Gus, has the same inclusiveness in his take on the form, she says. "There are some people in the dance world who think jazz dance is only done to jazz music," she says. "That is not my philosophy, nor was it my father's." Guest companies from abroad included Masashi Action Machine, the acrobatic Japanese company that is a fixture at JDWC; Mexico's Cuerpo Etereo Danza Contemporanea; and Danza Prospettiva Vittoria Biagi from Italy.

The event also singles out one figure each year to receive its Congress Award on closing night. Past recipients include Billy Siegenfeld, Ann Reinking, and Gregory Hines. This year's honoree was Joel Hall, a legendary Chicago jazz dance artist, for both his company and school, Joel Hall Dance Center.


And Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago came away from the festival with an addition to their repertoire. In 1990 for the first Congress, Sherry Zunker, founder of River North Chicago Dance Company and a former Giordano dancer choreographed and performed the dramatic duet The Man That Got Away. Prior to this year's event, Zunker called Nan Giordano and said, "I want to give your father a gift. I want to give the company The Man That Got Away." And so the piece came full circle, performed by GJDC on the August 3 festival program, and will remain in the company's repertoire.
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Title Annotation:dance matters
Author:Arnett, Lisa
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2007
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