Dance News
Joseph Wiggan and Josette Wiggan-Freund in Harmony: Tap in Motion. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

This summer at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, tap program director Michelle Dorrance curated a mixed repertory program that showcased the best of the best in tap innovation. Four extremely diverse acts graced the stage of the Ted Shawn Theatre for a one-of-a-kind tap extravaganza. Here are three of our favorite tap trends that we hope to see much more of.

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Liz Gerring, Pam Tanowitz and Michelle Dorrance. Photo by Matthew Karas, courtesy of New York City Center

Michelle Dorrance (DT, May 2012), Liz Gerring and Pam Tanowitz are the new recipients of choreography fellowships provided by New York City Center. As fellows, the three women will each get 200 hours of free studio space, a stipend, and fundraising and marketing support. City Center, which produces the Fall for Dance Festival, will consider the fellows for its 2017 festival lineup. Past recipients include Camille A. Brown (DT, August 2015), Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, and Kyle Abraham.


Tony Waag (center) performing in ATDF's 2016 Tap Treasures Concert. Photo courtesy of ATDF

When American Tap Dance Foundation artistic director Tony Waag was in college, he attended a tap workshop conducted by Brenda Bufalino. The two hit it off, and Bufalino became his mentor. From the get-go, Bufalino was supportive of Waag's stylistic choices.

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Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of New York City Center

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Damian Woetzel's leadership at the Vail International Dance Festival, a new four-day event will be held in New York City, November 3–6. Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC brings three programs to New York City Center, along with a special lecture/demonstration focused on footwork, hosted by Woetzel. Featured performers include: Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, Wendy Whelan, Robert Fairchild, Matthew Rushing and Yo-Yo Ma. Works by George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, José Limón, Martha Graham, Larry Keigwin and Christopher Wheeldon will be performed. Vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival

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Tony Waag’s annual Tap City dance festival in New York City has a new program this year—Tap Treasures: a Tap Dance Storytelling Tour. Participants learn about the history and evolution of tap dance through a three-day tour of Manhattan locations where the best and brightest stars made their marks. Locations include the Apollo Theater in Harlem, The New 42nd Street and the American Tap Dance Center, founded by Tony Waag and Brenda Bufalino. Tap City, which takes place July 9–16, features performances and classes taught by Syncopated Ladies’ Chloé Arnold and Melinda Sullivan, Michelle Dorrance and Jason Mills. atdf.org/tapcity.html

Caleb Teicher performs with ATDF.

Photo by Vitaliy Piltser, courtesy of ATDF

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Choreographer and director Camille A. Brown (DT, August 2015) has been awarded the 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. In addition to an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize, the honor comes with a residency and performing engagement at the 2017 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award was created in 2007. Previous awardees include Merce Cunningham, Michelle Dorrance (DT, May 2012) and Kyle Abraham.

Photo by Matt Murphy

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Michelle Dorrance

Last we checked in with Michelle Dorrance (DT, May 2012), she had been named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow, an honor that came with a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant. Since then, tap dance’s leading lady has been busy! Last night, she premiered her most recent endeavor ETM: Double Down, an evening-length show created in collaboration with dancer and percussionist Nicholas Van Young.

This wasn’t your average tap show. The performers danced on specialized platforms created by Van Young that not only amplified their taps, but also responded with a variety of synthesized sounds. Each movement sparked a different auditory response which, when contextualized in Dorrance’s brilliant choreography, made for an extremely synchronous experience as an audience member, both visually and audibly. It was a sensory sensation.

Nicholas Van Young

Dorrance’s choreography and use of technology really launched tap dance into the next millennium. Along with the musical platforms, the performance contained electronic looping, body percussion, drums, cello, chains, a vocal performance by Aaron Marcellus and the awesome physical feats of B-girl Ephrat Asherie.

Perhaps most impressive, though, was Michelle Dorrance herself. The woman sure can tap! From lightning-speed improvisational solos to the soft pulse of a simple toe to floor, she really pulled me into her performance.

Dorrance Dance will be at The Joyce Theater in NYC through Sunday.

(L-R) Demi Remick, Karida Griffith, Gregory Richardson, Warren Craft, Caleb Teicher and Michelle Dorrance

Photos by Christopher Duggan, courtesy of Dorrance Dance

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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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