Stepping out: jazz dance stardom runs in Lauren's family.
What sets Lauren apart from other dancers her age is that she was born into one of America's most important and influential jazz dance families. Her grandfather founded Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and her aunt, Nan Giordano, now runs it. When I asked her about growing up around a whole family of dancers, she corrected me and said, "My brother doesn't dance; he plays football and baseball."
Lauren's mom, Amy Giordano Curran, never pressured her to dance. "My dad never pushed us, and I wasn't going to raise Lauren that way either," said Amy. "Her passion for dance developed naturally."
"My grandpa is Gus Giordano," Lauren began explaining. "He has been dancing since he was 5, and he wrote the first book on jazz dance--The Anthology of American Jazz Dance. It gave all the history of jazz and it has pictures of all the positions. My grandfather turned 80 this year, and he still teaches! His company is celebrating its forty-first season this year, and is one of the oldest jazz companies in the U.S. His dance school in Evanston is 50 years old, and my Uncle Marc is director now. Grandpa's been a master teacher at tons of places all over the world, including American Ballet Theatre, Jazzercise, and Dance Masters of America. He came from Missouri to New York, and performed on Broadway in musicals like Guys and Dolls, Wish You Were Here, and On the Town. He started the Jazz Dance World Congress in 1990. It brings together all master jazz teachers and companies for classes and performances every year. My Aunt Nan is now the artistic director of the Congress, and my mom runs the business side."
HAVING HER CAKE
Lauren paused to start on the biggest piece of chocolate cake we'd ever seen. We were getting food at Bar Louie around the corner from Homer Bryant's Dance Center. I offered her something salty to go with her cake, and she accepted but made me promise not to order tacos because she is not a fan.
"My first Congress was held in Monterrey, Mexico, two years ago. Kids can't take classes at the Congress until they're 10. I was there for ten days because I went early to help set up with my mom. Mexico was amazing. I met all these kids from all over the world and they showed me around. The city was big. And people didn't really eat dinner until late, like midnight. I got to take class with all these cool choreographers like Joe Lanteri, and Randy Duncan. At the JDWC in Buffalo this year, choreographer Ron de Jesus did a new piece with the Giordano company called Prey. There were so many leaps, lifts, and jumps. It was unbelievable! At the end they got an instant standing ovation. I would love to be able to dance like that! And next summer, I get to go to Costa Rica with the Congress."
"What's it like taking classes and dancing with your whole family around?" I asked the big cake eater.
"It's mostly fun but it can be a bit nerve-wracking. My first class was where all the master teachers teach you a combination, one after another. My grandpa told the class that I was his granddaughter and all the cameramen zeroed in on me and started taking my picture. It was really embarrassing! But otherwise it's totally fun to have the family all around me. I take my Aunt Nan's class at the studio."
"The Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago Company is my favorite because my grandfather founded it. They do fast pieces, funny pieces, and slow pieces, and the dancers' skill and energy levels are so high. I like dancers who have style, technique, good facial expressions, and personality onstage."
Lauren doesn't spend all her time in the studio, though. "I like rap and pop, like Justin Timberlake and Nelly and other singers like that. I like watching music videos but the dancers are mostly skinny and stiff, think. Mostly all the choreography is hip-hop. Some videos don't even really have choreography!"
WHAT'S UP NEXT?
After we joked about an all-ballet music video, I asked her what she saw herself doing in five years or even ten. She gave a bit of a puzzled look and said she wasn't sure yet. She knows she loves to dance and wants to dance with the Giordano company when she's old enough. But she's also a singer, an actor, and a swimmer who loves language arts and music classes. Maybe she'll be on Broadway. Or start a band. Or write a book. All Lauren has to say about it right now is that she's not quite ready to decide just yet.
Sarah Forbes Keough is a writer and photographer living in Brooklyn.
I also take ballet about eight hours a week at Midwest Ballet. I just went on pointe so I'm working really hard at that. Our director has a company of high-school age dancers ,and they do three shows a year, including a Nutcracker. I've been around jazz a lot more and seen way more shows but I love ballet because it's something that I'm doing on my own. I saw the Jofrrey Ballet twice and they were really good.
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|Title Annotation:||twelve-year old dancer Lauren Curran, granddaughter of famed jazz dancer Gus Giordano|
|Author:||Keough, Sarah Forbes|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2003|
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