All that jazzzzzzzz.
Gus Giordano believes in the number five. For this 25th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as well as for the fifth anniversary of Giordano's Jazz Dance World Congress (JDWC), the fives have come together.
It began in 1994 when the National Endowment for the Arts made a site visit to JDWC in Evanston, Illinois. By February 1995, Giordano was sitting in the Center's Washington programming and booking office learning that the Center would copresent JDWC 1996 as a suitable, popular, and multicultural celebration of the art of American jazz dance.
"What better way," says Giordano, "to celebrate our own jazz dance than on the Fourth of July in our nation's capital? I'm thrilled."
JDWC, held in the U.S. in even-numbered years, and abroad in odd-numbered years, has had enormous success. In Japan (1995), houses were sold out; NHK Japanese television broadcast performances nationally and internationally throughout Asia; and local TV newscasts covered the event daily.
Giordano's modest explanation is that in a society such as Japan's, that suppresses an outward show of emotions, jazz dance offers an accepted, logical, and welcome opportunity for freedom of expression. It's a complimentary explanation that refrains from attributing JDWC success to the talent of his performers, teachers, staff, or his own classic career as teacher, choreographer, and artistic director.
As an explanation of the universal appeal of jazz dance, Giordano points out that jazz still represents the people, not dancing schools, films, musicals, or videos. "It reflects the fashion of the times," he adds.
"Historically, jazz has permeated every form of dance during this century: Jazz was incorporated into tap dance when it became less static by adding body and arm movements; through Balanchine, in 1936, jazz found its way into musicals in the `Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' section of On Your Toes. Before that musical, dance in shows featured only chorus lines, eccentric acts, or social dances. Jerome Robbins advanced jazz dance on Broadway even further and onto the concert stage."
Jazz dance, according to Giordano, has now brought more boys into the classroom. "They all want to move in their oversized clothes in a way that has no restriction, no shape, and in which they can hide. They go to a studio that has hiphop classes and eventually find that they can't audition anywhere because they can't do anything else. Every choreographer wants a dancer trained in ballet or modern as well as jazz. The trained dancer can take off with choreography; the others can't."
Giordano laments contemporary dance that has not come from the African American soul and developed through the body, but is something that is completely artificial and commercial. "It's not real," he says. "Young people see a Michael Jackson video, for instance, and think that they can dance like that. Every one of those dancers, including the choreographer, has been through classical jazz training. There is no way you can become a professional dancer by only doing hiphop. Paula Abdul, for instance, holds a two-day audition beginning with ballet. Two of my company dancers worked in Michael and Janet Jackson videos because they were talented and well trained."
Coming from a background of performing Marine Corps Troopers, Broadway shows, and live television, Giordano finds scant variety of experience for young dancers today. "It's a shame," he explains, "that there are no more summer stock or theater productions that require a variety of styles of dance. They've been replaced by repetitious theme-park work."
His advice: Get a thorough dance education that includes all forms of dance, singing, and acting classes. "Then go for a jazz company. You'll be ready for anything."
For reservations contact Washington Marriott (up to four persons in a room) at (800) 228-9290. For three-day workshop classes, June 30 to July 2; five-day congress performances, July 3 to 7; or eight-day workshop and congress registration, call JDWC, (708) 866-9443, or fax (708) 866-9228 in Evanston, Illinois.
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|Title Annotation:||1996 Jazz Dance World Congress|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1996|
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