Michelle Dorrance on the Blues

In an exclusive interview with Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron, Michelle Dorrance discussed her current work, The Blues Project, displaying the disarmingly humble demeanor we’ve come to expect and love from the tapper.

She is honored and thrilled, she says, to have Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Derick K. Grant co-choreographing The Blues Project with her. It’s a unique experience dancing to the blues, she explains, because she is moved more by the vocals and guitar than the percussion and rhythm sections.

When Perron asks what instrument Dorrance would play if she wasn’t busy making music with her feet, she says she “fake plays” harmonica—she’s played it on her tap tours to Europe—and has mastered no more than “three chords and the truth” on guitar and ukulele—to play the blues (and other) melodies she was obsessed with as a child, she says.

When the subject of sexy women tappers like Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies comes up, Dorrance says she would probably perform best as comic relief in one of their sets, noting it takes a ton of technical skill to be sexy while dancing. Give her six months, she adds, and she might be able to do it.

The Blues Project will have a weeklong run at Jacob’s Pillow this summer. Watch the full interview with Perron here:

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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