An evening at the Kahilu Theatre is always a treat. Familiar faces that you usually see in the supermarket, post office, or in the surf, abandon the civilian look for a classy moment out. Before you’ve even entered the theater, there is an air of celebration –the mere fact that we all get to be in this beautiful, historical theatre, in a upcountry, ranching town, on an island in the middle of the Pacific, enjoying the work of a world-class dance company – everyone was already having fun before the show even began. Deb Goodwin, Executive Director of the Kahilu, introduced the production asking the audience, “are you ready to have some fun?” the packed house responded with enthusiastic cheers and clapping, to which Goodwin replied, “good, because the world cannot change without a radical commitment to fun.” As the curtain lifted, the stage was set, as joy and inspiration permeated each piece.
As a 56-year-old institution, I suppose I expected that the Giordano Dance Company would be relatively classic Jazz; exciting and upbeat but not necessarily provoking. However, each number took the audience on a journey that came full circle ending in with an upbeat finish that left the everyone feeling both lifted and inspired. Each of the two acts consisted of a series of stand-alone pieces that also wove into the larger context of the entire show. Like any good art it was clear that while the director was presenting social commentary on the human experience, each piece was also open to interpretation – to be received through each individual’s perspective. Each piece also effectively showcased the Giordano technique, the athleticism and skill of the dancers, intentional lighting design, and synergistic costume design.
The first piece was a partner dance, where the company of ten dancers (half male, half female), portrayed a story of flirtation and attraction utilizing a number of seamlessly executed partner lifts that demonstrate the trust amongst the performers. The ensemble aspect of the group was a theme that remained consistent throughout the show, with all dancers participating in every number as a part of a collective whole, even when individuals were showcased. The theme of attraction carried on into the second piece, with the 1973 hit “Only You,” followed by a remix of “Cannon in D major.” The versatility in musical genres was reflected by the versatility in choreography, and theme, as if each piece was exploring the phenomenon of attraction through a different angle with an overriding feeling of joy, hope, and optimism that translated not only through the movement but the expression and interaction of the dancers. The first act closed with a piece that used copper cups as props, not only to portray drinking but also to create percussion. Rarely do we see such props in dance pieces outside of Musicals, but the cups made the subject relatable and humorous, giving it almost a slapstick feeling as a commentary on the rush and hurry of society.
The opening of the second act strongly juxtaposed the first, opening with a piece that felt like a journey through the darkness of the human psyche. This piece was a clear testament to the versatility of the performers, and their ability to assume the movement into their entire being, portraying the theme of the work down to their fingertips, lips, and eyes. The lighting design complemented the shadow side of this Matrix like exploration of the mind. The transition back to joy was achieved through the final number, that felt like the more traditional Jazz you might expect. A Jazz, disco fusion number that ended with Ike & Tina Turner’s rendition of “Proud Mary,” Ending with this familiar crowd pleaser brought the show back full circle, around to that theme of ‘radical fun’. While everyone in an audience of live performance always leaves with a different take-away, based on how they related personally to the work, I think it’s safe to say every single person walked out of the Kahilu uplifted and inspired. My specific take-away was that while we encounter all sorts of challenges in everyday life; relationships, darkness, the pressures of society, etc. – joy is ours to cultivate and positive energy is exceptionally powerful. For 56 years the Giordano Dance Company has been sharing this gift with the world through their performances, trainings, and educational outreach programs. The mission and vision of the Company permeated each piece of this performance exemplifying their commitment to the relevance of the performing arts in creating social change. Bravo!
Noelani Isabella Anderson is from the Hamakua Coast, studied Theatre at Chapman University, and teaches Musical Theatre and Acting Technique for Prince Dance Institute, North Hawaii’s performing Arts School, where she is also Managing Director.
Photos: Steve Roby
For more info on Giordano Dance Chicago, please visite their website: https://www.giordanodance.org