“On one hand, jazz dance is truly a discipline requiring the same fierce dedication one expects in ballet. But jazz dance emancipates the soul. It frees the spirit.”
A man known for helping to lead jazz dance into becoming a revered art form, Gus Giordano is often referred to as the “Godfather of American Jazz Dance.” His early exposure to dance was in New Orleans as he watched his cousin dance to folk music. His interest was piqued by the movement of dance and his life path was set. Gus started training in ballet and modern in his hometown of St. Louis under the direction of Minette Buchmann. A this point, jazz was not a style that had been formally established and made available to study in dance schools. Gus was so taken by dance and movement, it even went with him during his time as a Marine. He was part of a group that performed at military bases around the United States. After his time as a Marine, he went on to graduate from the University of Missouri, where he minored in dance. Gus then made his way to New York City with his wife Peg. He made appearances on Broadway and studied under many masters of movement, including Katherine Dunham, Hanya Holm, & Alwin Nikolais to name a few. After a successful career on Broadway, the Giordano’s relocated to Chicago where they established the Gus Giordano Dance school and Gus Giordano Dance Chicago in nearby Evanston. He further influenced the reputation of jazz dance with the creation of the Gus Giordano Jazz Technique and the publication of his books, including “Anthology of American Jazz Dance.” His impact has reached film screens and stages throughout the world and earned him numerous awards for his contribution to jazz dance and the arts as a whole. His namesake school and performing company continue to carry on his legacy and passion for jazz dance today.
Cesar Salinas representing Gus Giordano
“As a child, I was in a program that Ehud Krauss created called IndepenDANCE, which was help to keep at risk youth off the streets and in a dance studio. As an inner city kid, I was fortunate to have someone who saw something in me as a dancer. He was instrumental in my formative years as a dancer. I fell in love with dance and never looked back. Ehud studied with Gus Giordano in New York. Ehud exposed me to Gus’ classic style, The Giordano Technique, at a very early stage. I could close my eyes at this very moment and still remember teaching me the Giordano Technique. It was a feeling – an energy I will never forget that radiated all over my body. Gus’ movement came to me naturally. The roots of the Giordano Technique encompass many culture rhythms as well. Being of Latin decent I took to the calypso walk, juxtaposing musical rhythms and any movement that led with the hips and shoulders. Whenever I dance and or teach the Giordano Technique I feel like I am wearing the finest tailored three-piece suit. It always fits like a glove! The discipline in the Giordano Technique is also why I feel so connected to the technique. The detailed and specific movement of the technique keeps the the dancer engaged and self aware. When you perform or dance the Giordano Technique your total body is incorporated. Every breath, every step, every isolation is completely present. Gus Giordano’s signature and classic movement is important to me because of its history and the legacy he has left us all. It’s timeless and is a foundation in the jazz dance idiom. Gus was a visionary and worked tirelessly for jazz dance to be a notable and recognized art form around the world. I have devoted my time alongside Gus’ daughter, Nan Giordano, Artistic Director of Giordano Dance Chicago to preserving the technique and making sure it will live on. It has shaped me as dancer because it has given me my career. I started training with the company since I was 19, when I first received a scholarship at the original school in Evanston. Gus was still with us during that time and I loved getting to see him in the studio often. I will never forget when he turned to me after a performance at the Harris Theater and asked, “Why aren’t you up there?” I was a Giordano II member at the time and replied, “Mr. G, its not my time yet. Hopefully one day.” I went through the ranks as a student, Giordano II member, main company member, on faculty at the original school and the Jazz Dance World Congress, to costume master, administrative assistant, and Artistic Assistant to now Artistic Programs Manager. I truly have been shaped a dancer, but so much more. The Giordano Technique has shaped me in ways that continue to challenge me, allow me to explore and experiment with the movement, and in turn shape the dancers I get to work with.”
Artistic Programs Manager for Giordano Dance Chicago, Master Teacher, Dancer