August 8 was “Giordano Research Day” for the CDHP crew, interviewing two gentlemen who were part of the company’s earliest years. The day began with original Giordano Dance Company member Mort Kessler. Mort came to Chicago in his late teens and met Peg Giordano while working as a hairdresser on Michigan Avenue. His friendship with Gus and Peg Giordano was instantaneous, as was his involvement in the company. “I was there at the birth of the studio,” he recalled.
As Giordano Dance’s jack-of-all-trades, Mort took on myriad responsibilities in addition to dancing. He occasionally designed costumes and make-up for Gus’s work. Fondly, he recalls repairing the floor of the studio in Evanston (a former bowling alley) and carrying an accompanist up the studio’s flight of stairs every time she arrived to play for class. At Jazz Dance World Congress, Mort gained a reputation as a “bouncer,” guarding rooms against prying parents and audience members. Mort has pride not only in his role in Giordano Dance history, but in his friendship with Gus himself. “He was an artist,” Mort explained. “He lived his art.”