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Dance Community Loses Beacon of Light

Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago

March 9, 2008
A very close client of ours, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, suffered a great loss this past week with the passing of Gus Giordano. Gus Giordano, founder/director emeritus of the critically acclaimed Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, author, legendary choreographer and one of the fathers of American jazz dance passed away quietly in Chicago on Sunday, March 9 from pneumonia. He was 84.

"Our father was a light for so many people in so many ways in Chicago," say Nan and Amy Giordano, daughters carrying on Giordano's legacy in the company and the school. "His vision, creativity and passion for jazz dance made a huge impact on dance communities, students and audiences in Chicago and throughout the world. All who knew him personally will deeply miss the elegance and warmth of his presence, but it is now our job to embrace the dreams he shared with his late wife Peg and carry them forward to new and higher levels."

August Thomas Giordano ("Gus") was born in St. Louis in 1923 . During World War II, Giordano joined the Marines, where he was assigned to a performing group that put on shows at the Hollywood Canteen and at military bases around the country. After college he moved to New York with his wife Peg and performed in the Broadway musical "Wish You Were Here," "Paint Your Wagon," "On the Town" and several television variety shows including the "Ed Sullivan Show." In 1953, Gus Giordano moved back to Chicago and opened his Evanston based dance school where he taught and choreographed the Giordano technique. Giordano went on to write about it in his the highly acclaimed "Anthology of American Jazz Dance," the first book of its kind was released 1975. Giordano organized the first Jazz Dance World Congress in August 1990. This event, co-sponsored by Northwestern University, assembled jazz dance greats such as Luigi, Matt Mattox, and Giordano and numerous jazz dance companies for a week of master classes and performances. Now an annual event, the Congress has been held at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at Northwestern University and University at Buffalo, in Phoenix, Chicago, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Costa Rica, and just this past August was staged for the third time in Chicago.

Gus Giordano was the recipient of the 1984 Dance Educators of America Award for his "outstanding contribution to the world of jazz dance." His numerous honors included the 1988 Mayor's Award for the Arts (Evanston, Ill.), the 1989 Governor's Award for the Arts for exemplary individual artistic achievement, the 1991 Dance Teacher Now "Circle Award" for lifetime contributions to dance education, the 1993 Ruth Page Lifetime Service to the Field Award (presented to Gus and his late wife Peg); and in 1996 from the University of Missouri the "Distinguished Alumni Award" and the "William Francis English Scholar-in-Residence Award." In 1985, Governor James Thompson declared April 25 "Gus Giordano Day" in appreciation of "his immense contribution to the cultural environment of the State of Illinois." In 1995 he received the "Honorable Artist Award" from Chukyo University in Nagoya, Japan. In 1997 Gus served as National Spokesperson for National Dance Week. In 1999, Gus received the Third Annual Katherine Dunham Award for "excellence and great contributions to the Arts," and in 2003, Chicago's Mayor Daley presented Gus with the Chicago Senior of the Year Award. In 2005 the National Dance Association presented Gus with its Heritage Award, and the same year Gus received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree from Shenandoah University.

Giordano is survived by daughters Nan Giordano and Amy Giordano, sons Patrick and Marc Giordano and eight grandchildren.

A Tribute to Gus Giordano is being planned as part of the company's engagement at the Harris Theater October 24 and 25, 2008.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Gus Giordano
Memorial Fund. The fund will perpetuate the dreams, plans and projects of Gus Giordano. All contributions can be sent to: Gus Giordano Memorial Fund, 614 Davis Street, Evanston, IL 60201.
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