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Giordano Jazz Dance: A passion for percussion

Autumn Eckman's Yes...and.
Autumn Eckman's Yes...and.
Courtesy of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago

While choosing a career, Autumn Eckman pondered two pursuits: a percussionist or a dancer. The Chicago dancer-choreographer chose the latter. However, the rapidly rising dance maker -- who is an artistic associate of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and director of its apprentice company, Giordano II -- now combines both loves. Her new ensemble work for 20 dancers, titled Yes...and, is driven by a heavily percussive beat. It premieres during Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago's fall engagement Oct. 22 and 23 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

"I'm from rural Georgia and was a clogger," says Eckman. "Percussion and drumming have been a big part of my life."

But Yes...and also draws from one of the most basic tenets of theatrical improv: an affirming exercise in which improvisers build on a forward-moving statement (the "yes and" idea) to expand on characters and scenes and essentially advance the action. The dancers in Eckman's piece transfer this principle to movement that consistently builds and expands. Yes...and is also "heavily patterned," according to the choreographer, with an intricate mathematical structure.

In addition, Eckman is premiering a duet, A Little Moonlight, set to a fast-scat version of the song, What a Little Moonlight Can Do. Something of a throwback to classic movie musicals, it also mixes contemporary moves with lighthearted humor...and, of course, ample rhythmic complexity. She is one of an increasing number of choreographers stretching the boundaries of jazz dance to include ballet, modern, music theater, and performance.

Also on the bill is Journey In, a new jazz-contemporary work by Karen Mareck Grundy, artistic director of Missouri Contemporary Ballet, together with a selection of revivals from Rennie Harris, Brock Clawson and Ron DeJesus.

Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago performs Oct. 22 and 23 at 8 the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive. Tickets: $15-$60. Call 312-334-7777 or visit More information:

Also playing...

Sankai Juku, an all-male Japan-based Butoh company, performs artistic director Ushio Amagatsu's meditative epic, Hibiki: Resonance from Far Away, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Drive. Program is co-presented by the Dance Center of Columbia College and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Tickets: $35-$65. Call 312-334-7777 or visit More information: or

On a Butoh-related note, Blushing Poppy Productions presents a five-day workshop that culminates in a performance with Butoh legends Hiroko and Koichi Tamano Oct. 21-25 at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield. More info: or

Natya Dance Theatre, Uma Dogra, DanceWorks Chicago, Hedwig Dances, and Mordine & Co. Dance Theater are among the companies (Indian and contemporary) participating in a series of concerts titled Crossing Cultures Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library Center's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, 400 S. State St. Tickets: $20-$30. Visit

Dance Chicago kicks off with a Dance Slam Competition featuring more than 500 performers in hip hop, ballet, breaking, street, jazz, and contemporary styles on Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Chicago's Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St. Tickets: $25. Call 773-989-0698 or visit



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