#TBT How Much Do You Know About Gus Giordano, the Godfather of Jazz Dance?
January 4, 2018

Master teacher, choreographer and artistic director Gus Giordano was a fierce advocate for jazz dance. He created the Giordano technique, organized the first Jazz Dance World Congress and founded Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, the first dance company devoted solely to jazz. When jazz dance had yet to find its footing in American concert dance and education, Giordano legitimized it in the eyes of critics, audiences and dancers alike.

Born August Thomas Giordano III in St. Louis, he studied dance at a local studio growing up and took summer classes in New York City from Katherine Dunham, Hanya Holm, Peter Gennaro and Alwin Nikolais, whose styles influenced his. After serving in WWII, he performed in several Broadway shows (Paint Your Wagon, On the Town). Giordano moved to Chicago in 1953 and established the Gus Giordano Dance School, where he developed his take on jazz, the Giordano technique. It included innovations like head and shoulder isolations, now a staple in jazz classes.

In 1963, he founded his own troupe, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, the first all-jazz-dance company. Like his technique, Giordano’s choreography was energetic and driving, featuring strength, control and precision, as well as an expansive use of space with high jumps and multiple turns. The company toured worldwide to acclaim.

In 1990, Giordano established the Jazz Dance World Congress, a biannual gathering of master classes and performances for jazz dancers and teachers. The event, a source of inspiration and education, was last held in 2012—four years after Giordano’s death at age 84.

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