Sound. Tap is about sound. Rhythm. The beat. You might also think that tap is about those shoes that make the sound in a rhythmic, almost super-human beat. It is. But last night’s American Dance Festival presentation of Dorrance Dance in SOUNDspace on June 21-23 in the R.J. Reynolds Industries Theater on Duke University’s West Campus in Durham, NC, proved that tap shoes are not necessary. It’s the tapper him/herself who creates the beat, the rhythmic foot movement that creates the sound. And, oh man, do those dancers create.
The American Dance Festival is all about creating and their audiences are full of other dancers who understand the creative process. Dorrance Dance blew everyone’s expectations out of the water. It literally brought the house down.
The sound begins before the audience is able to see the dancers. In pitch black, the rat-tat-tat echoes throughout the theater, becoming quicker and quicker, echoing, scraping, then a hard stop, followed by stomping. All in pitch black.
Finally, your eyes adjust and you can see a white shape, then another, and the lights slowly come up to reveal the tappers — in their socks! Slapping, tapping, sliding like ice skaters on a waxed floor. No shoes, yet the rhythm of their feet instantly tells you that anyone can wear taps on their shoes. But it takes an innate sense of the body, the ability to create a coordinated sound without benefit of music, that reveals a true artist.
Each of the dancers has her/his moment on stage, dancing hard and long, intricately creating sounds with their feet, their hands, even their mouths, taps that are faster than hummingbird’s wings; and the appreciative audience spontaneously erupts in response to the technicality of the dance itself. This is not tap that might be part of a Broadway show or a child’s recital. In fact, during one of the performances, the dancer slowed down and flashed a big smile when doing the shuffle-slide-ball-chain that’s basic tap, almost because she knew that the audience would understand that she’d gone light years from those basic steps — but that tap was what she loved, being a dancer was who she was, and without words, she related that the roots of the dance would always be rhythm and sound.
Throughout the performance, the dancers incorporated various techniques, surfaces, and sounds, using multiple ways of expression in order to deliver the result: an absolutely phenomenal performance filled with brilliance and underscored with a nod to other dance forms that have been influenced by tap.
Before this performance, Michelle Dorrance, who has fond memories of performing on the Reynolds Industries Theater’s stage itself, and whose mother was a pioneer in the Duke Dance Program, shared with the audience that she was exploring texture, tone, and sound with her dancers. Once you experience what Dorrance’s performers found with that exploration, you want to tell her to stop looking. She’s found the genius in tap (which is why she’s a MacArthur Fellow), but she’s also created the map that will lead others through her exploration. I doubt I’ll ever see another tap performance as incredible as Dorrance Dance. Period.
SECOND OPINION: June 12th Durham, NC Indy Week preview Byron Woods: https://indyweek.com/culture/stage/byron-woods-adf-picks-2019/.
The American Dance Festival presents Dorrance Dance in SOUNDSPACE at 7 p.m. June 22 and 3 p.m. June 23 in the R.J. Reynolds Industries Theater on the upper floor of the Bryan Center, 125 Science Dr., Durham, North Carolina 27708, on Duke University’s West Campus.
BOX OFFICE: https://tickets.duke.edu/online/article/dorrance19.
SHOW: https://americandancefestival.org/performance/2019-season/dorrance-dance/, https://tickets.duke.edu/online/article/dorrance19, and https://www.facebook.com/events/1231960916966702/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://youtu.be/A2xYViQayXI and https://vimeo.com/332045913.
ADF NEWS RELEASE FOR WEEK 1: https://www.americandancefestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Week-1.pdf.
PRESENTER: http://www.americandancefestival.org/, https://www.facebook.com/AmerDanceFest, https://twitter.com/AmerDanceFest, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dance_Festival.
BLOG (ADF Blog): http://www.americandancefestival.org/projects/blog/.
VENUE/DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://dukeperformances.duke.edu/venues/reynolds-industries-theater and https://tickets.duke.edu/.
NOTE: There will be a post-performance discussion in Saturday, June 22nd.
Dorrance Dance (New York, NY tap-dance company, founded in 2011): https://www.dorrancedance.com/ (official websit), https://www.facebook.com/dorrancedance/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/dorrancedance (Twitter page), and https://vimeo.com/user15162926 (Vimeo page).
Michelle Dorrance (New York, NY tap dancer extraordinaire, choreographer, and teacher; founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance; and 2015 MacArthur Fellow): http://www.michelledorrance.com/ (official website), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3702275/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/michelle.dorrance (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/mashdeez (Twitter page), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Dorrance (Wikipedia), and https://vimeo.com/user15162926 (Vimeo page).
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.