Like many seeming overnight sensations who have a substantial body of work behind them, tap dance darling Michelle Dorrance earned her way to the many accolades she has received and is still receiving including the 2015 MacArthur Genius Grant Fellowship.
The Fellowship rocketed the North Carolina-native and her company Dorrance Dance to international prominence. Prior to this recent boost in popularity, Dorrance performed with STOMP, Savion Glover’s ti dii (Tie Dye) and Manhattan Tap among others and has worked with The Martha Graham Dance Company, actor/comedian Bill Irwin, dancer Lil’ Buck, and has appeared on CBS’s "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."
After making the rounds on tour just about everywhere the past few years, it was inevitable Dorrance and company would land in Buffalo. The company, including Orchard Park-native Ali Dietz, will perform as part of the M&T Bank Dance Series on March 31 at the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts’ Mainstage Theatre.
While the company is making its Buffalo debut, individual dancers including Dorrance have participated in the past in Dietz’s annual Dancers Give Back benefit she started in 2008 to raise money for area cancer research and patient support.
Founded in 2011, Dorrance Dance is a contemporary tap troupe that pushes the boundaries of tap while honoring its history. The company is to the recent renaissance in tap dancing like a comet that scorches people’s preconceptions about what they think tap is and why they think they don’t like it. Dorrance Dance’s shows have met with critical acclaim and standing ovations wherever it goes including The New York Times calling the troupe "...entirely glorious."
At the Center for the Arts the company will present a 75-minute sampler program of some of its most popular works beginning with excerpts from 2013’s SOUNDspace. Directed and choreographed by Dorrance and performed a capella by her, Dietz and six other dancers in regular tap and leather-soled shoes, the work explores the range of sounds the dancers can produce.
One of the first works Dietz said she learned apprenticing with the company in 2013, SOUNDspace provides the dancers opportunities within it to improvise solos. “Michelle [Dorrance] wants us to have our own voices as dancers,” Dietz said. “Different works call for different [tap] styles and tempos, but within those, she lets us show off who we are as dancers.”
Highlighting those solos will be a body-percussion marvel by dancer Nicholas Van Young and one by Dorrance that honors her mentors which Cleveland.com said “…appeared handed down from the tap gods.”
Like many tappers Dorrance considers herself as much a musician as a dancer, perhaps more. To that end she will not only make music with her feet in the program, but will also briefly sing and play the guitar.
In the program’s second half, the dancing will switch gears to include more character work and humor beginning with “a Petite Suite” (2011), set to music by Fiona Apple, Squirrel Nut Zippers and Manu Chao. It will be followed by “We Came Here To Do One Thing” that will feature the unusual and brilliant ankle-breaking dance stylings of Warren Craft to music by Nat King Cole and Radiohead.
Rounding out the program will be excerpts from 2015’s “Myelination.” Danced to original music Donovan Dorrance and Gregory Richardson, the work says Dietz is the perfect end to the show because it is so fast and furious “I am not sure what we could do after it.”
For Dorrance, who was recently briefly sidelined a kidney infection, the performance at UBCFA will be a welcomed return to the stage. For area dance lovers, it will be a welcomed opportunity to see a contemporary troupe that gives tap its due in the here and now.
What: Dorrance Dance
When: 8 p.m. March 31
Where: Center for the Arts University at Buffalo, Mainstage Theatre, 103 Center for the Arts
Tickets: $31.50 general, $13.50 students.