Dorrance Dance brings musicality to the rhythms of life in tap


Dorrance Dance

I grew up studying and loving ballet and modern dance, but I always felt a little “meh” about tap. But after I watched MacArthur “Genius” award winner Michelle Dorrance perform with New York City Ballet dancer Tiler Peck in the Hulu documentary Ballet Now, I realized how wrong I’d been.

Dorrance brings her tap dance company Dorrance Dance to Ann Arbor on February 21-22 -- and trust me, you should be there. Her company’s style calls back to early black American tap dance and also pushes the art form forward effortlessly. Dorrance Dance will perform three works in Ann Arbor: Jungle Blues, a jazz-age inspired piece; Myelination, the titular ensemble piece; and Three To One, a more experimental work featuring only one dancer in tap shoes.

I got my chance to see Dorrance Dance in December performing a tap version of The Nutcracker, set to Duke Ellington’s jazz score. I was initially disappointed to read in my program that Dorrance herself would not be dancing but instead watching her company -- but my dissatisfaction evaporated quickly once the performance started. It was playful, funny, musical, and most of all, fresh -- something very challenging to be when presenting The Nutcracker (which I love, but you know, it’s been done).

Josette Wiggan-Freund shone as a lanky, sexy Sugar Rum Cherry, and actor and dancer Hannah Heller was the most hilarious and vaudevillian Mouse King I’m sure I’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing. When it ended, my brother commented, “I know people like other kinds of dance other than tap, but I just don’t understand why.”  

Dorrance considers herself a musician first and foremost. In addition to her work as a dancer and choreographer, she also plays the bass and sings. Dorrance Dance can be aggressive and loud, or the dancers might sweep the floor in a silky arc to make a quieter sound, but either way, music is at the forefront of each act.

Learn more about Michelle Dorrance in this 2017 PBS interview, and watch a preview of this weekend’s performance of Myelination:

Evelyn Hollenshead is a Youth Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Dorrance Dance will perform at the Power Center at 8 pm on Friday, February 21, and Saturday, February 22. Tickets start at $32 or $12 for students.