Dancers Awarded Summer Scholarships to Top Jazz Institution

From the April 2016 Desktop News | Three UA dance majors will spend an entire month this summer dancing in Chicago at Gus Giordano Dance—one of the best dance institutions for jazz training.

“Gus Giordano is one of the oldest and largest institutions for training dancers in the professional world,” said Cornelius Carter, the director of UA’s dance program. “When a student is able to attend a school of this caliber, it really gives them the opportunity to be viewed by the top people in the field.”

When Amy Giordano, the executive director of Gus Giordano Dance, came to the University to watch Dance Alabama!, she was there to watch her daughter, Sarah, but upon seeing the talent and technique of the other dancers, she selected three students to receive scholarships for the company’s annual Gus College/Pro Intensive.

“That’s unheard of in dance,” Carter said. “These top companies in Chicago and New York can have anyone they want, but they are calling me asking for our students.”

The Gus College/Pro intensive is a month-long dance seminar that was founded by dancer Gus Giordano, also known as the “Godfather of Jazz.” Today the program is led by his daughter, Amy Giordano, a seasoned dancer herself.

Each summer, Giordano brings top professional dancers from around the nation to instruct participants in all styles of dance—from ballet and tap to hip-hop and, of course, jazz.

“My father and I believe in the total dancer,” Giordano said. “We look for students who are dedicated to the dance art form by being leaders in their college or dance programs, who are eager to learn new dance styles and skills, and who are reliable and keep their commitments.”

When Tanner Fant, a freshman majoring in dance, heard she was awarded the scholarship, she was in shock.

“I get all giddy and happy anytime I think about it,” Fant said. “A big part of being a dancer is getting your hands on any type of education.”

If it hadn’t been for the scholarship, she said she never would’ve been able to attend such a program. She said it proved her hard work was paying off as people noticed how much she put into her dance.

Fant’s dream is to work as a dancer in a big city. As a Starkville, Mississippi, native, Fant said this is a chance for her, a “small-town girl,” to live her dream.

“It means the world to me, and I’m ready for the challenge,” Fant said. “I’m going to continue falling in love with dance more and more.”

Erika Issis expressed similar excitement. As a sophomore double majoring in dance and biology on a pre-med track, she rarely gets to focus exclusively on dance.

“Dance makes life more enjoyable,” Issis said. “As dancers, all we want to do is dance, so this is a great opportunity.”

She said she’s excited to develop her career as well as her dancing techniques. The intensive isn’t just about perfecting her technique, she said, but it’s an opportunity to make lasting connections and learn from new people.

“I can’t wait to meet new people and learn new styles and techniques from people from around the world,” Issis said.

The third recipient, Jonathan Brazelton, a 2015 alum, said he was thrilled to receive the award and would leave now if he could.

“I feel like this experience is going to be out of my comfort zone,” Brazelton said. “Unlike the other scholarship recipients, I have really only danced with people that I know from college, so working with these new dancers in Chicago is going to be a cool experience.”

Carter explained that working with the Gus Giordano Dance faculty will be some of the best experiences these students have.

“These scholarships serve as internships for these students,” Carter said. “In the dance world you have to be seen before you graduate, and that’s what this intensive enables them to do.”

“Not only do students gain the training in Giordano technique and all dance styles, they also gain a sense of maturity by coming to the Gus College/Pro Intensive,” Giordano said. “These life skills will help them tremendously when they are graduating from college and living life on their own.”