Dancing, Vogueing and more at Giordano Dance Chicago's Legacy Ball

Legendary dancer, choreographer, teacher and author Gus Giordano, founded Giordano Dance company in 1963, and boy would he be thrilled to see how far it's come now under the leadership and artistic direction of his daughter Nan Giordano. The dynamic dance company celebrated its 55th anniversary at its Legacy Ball on February 10 where nearly 300 guests joined in the fun!

The multi-sensory experience began at the entrance to Chez, a chic event space at 247 E. Ontario. This non-profit sure knows how to stretch a dollar as they created and installed all of the unique and colorful decor themselves (led by Trey Gonzalez) that paid homage to five decades of dance!

Delicious food stations, catered by Jewell Events & Catering, honored each decade beginning with a candy station filled with every sort of sweet treat you would find in the 60s. There were even vintage toys from this era displayed throughout the offerings. A 70s inspired station featured aluminum TV trays where you could add mac and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers, sloppy joes, mashed potatoes and so much more. A wall of hanging vinyl records, from Nan's own collection, served as a perfect backdrop for one of the food stations. (See video here)

The program opened with remarks from executive director Michael McStraw. He thanked the Associate Board and its president Ben Hess for hosting the event and the sponsors--Anna Held Floral Studio (Beth Tenney), Breakthru Beverage Illinois, E Malone, Chez Event Space, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Lagunitas Brewing Company, Jewell Events & Catering, Eli's Cheesecake Company, Inspired Events & Catering, Mon Ami Gabi, Quarles & Brady LLP, Best Value Vacs, Jam Productions Ltd., Ketel One Vodka and Michigan Avenue Mag, among others.

McStraw read a letter from Governor Bruce Rauner that said, in part, "The longevity of Giordano Dance Chicago is truly a testament to the quality dance instruction and outreach it provides and the relationships it has developed through the years."

A surprise announcement acknowledged Giordano Dance's new home and brought wild applause from the crowd. GDC recently took ownership of the Hermon Baptist Church at 1754 N. Clark Street that will see a redesign but will still maintain the original church facade. A capital campaign to support construction and building is in its initial phase.

And with that, what everyone was waiting for--GIORDANO DANCE CHICAGO! Dressed in costumes inspired by the five decades, the dancers twirled down a glass staircase spinning colored hula hoops dancing  to "Whatchamacallit" (see video here) followed by "Twist & Shout (the Beatles). Other dances included "He's so Fine" (The Chiffons); "You Really Got Me" (The Kinks) and more. For the 70s decade, dancers encouraged the crowd to join in to "Night Fever" (The BeeGees), "Last Dance" (Donna Summer) and more.

By now, the attendees were worked into a frenzy and continued dancing with GDC to "When Doves Cry" (Prince), "Sweet Dreams" (The Eurythmics) and "Let's Dance" (David Bowie), among many others. The dramatic light show, created by Shaun Shouldeen (see video here), added even more excitement to the party. DJ Matthew Harvat kept the excitement going and the crowd dancing long after the performance numbers had finished.

It was thrilling and terrifying to be introduced during the 1990s segment to Madonna's iconic "Vogue." Bare-chested, handsome dancers (Devin Buchanan, Adam Houston, Jacob Frazier, Ryan Galloway and Zachary Heller) flanked me on an entrance that I will never forget down that glass staircase. I danced (a little) and then we made our way to the stage after numerous lifts and poses. (These patient, generous dancers can make anyone look good and put them at ease, as they did me).

Nan Giordano had surprised me earlier in the evening with a beautiful framed photo that all of the company had signed. This presentation preceded a touching prayer circle that is part of the company's tradition before every performance and event---yet another reason why this dance company is so very special.

After my dance number, Nan and company had yet another surprise planned. A video of award-winning choreographer Ray Leeper (GDC's "Feelin' Good Sweet") announced that he will be choreographing a special work in my honor that will debut during GDC's fall 2018 concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Thank goodness I was wearing water-proof mascara.

A massive, commemorative Eli's Cheesecake was then wheeled down the Red Carpet where the entire company, board members and I posed for photos.

A live auction, expertly conducted by Nick Coombs from Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, sold two packages--the first being an "Elite Experience" that included two courtside seats to a Chicago Bulls game, prime seats to two Chicago Blackhawk's games; tickets to a performance by Grammy Award-winner David Byrne, Gold Coast dinners and more. The second experience was priceless--a Giordano Dance Chicago Cocktail Dance Party where the winner can invite 150 friends for a "dance party like none other" with the dancers at Chicago's hottest Cuban club, Flamingo Rum Club in River North.

The evening was a success from beginning to end raising over $90,000 for this beloved company. When the lights came on, no one wanted to leave. Now that my friends, is truly the measure of a good party! (Photos by Amie Hana and Phillip Thomas) (To see a video recap of ALL the fun by Joshua Blake Carter, click here!)

(The next big event for the dance company will be the very popular "Dancing with the Giordano Stars" that returns on October 4 to Park West. For tickets to this and other GDC events, click here).

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