Dance News

Tapping into Something Special

Here at DS, we're all about dance concept videos—you know, those short films that use dance to convey some sort of meaning. And this year's already given us a lot of great stuff: Kyle Hanagami inspired us for the New Year, Keone and Mari Madrid taught us about love and heartbreak, Harry Shum Jr. stood up for the shy kids, Del Mak took us inside his dance daydreams and the Jabbawokeez introduced us to an alternate reality.

Now it's time to talk about two tap choreographers who've also tapped into the magical world of dance concept videos: Mark Orsborn and Justin Myles. As co-founders of The JaM Project, a Washington, D.C.–based collective of passionate professional hoofers, Orsborn and Myles use rhythm and cinematography to accomplish something pretty brilliant.

But what's so cool about some of their recent work is that it's not too conceptual. They're masters of keeping things just abstract enough to let your imagination wander. In fact, letting your imagination wander is exactly what this first video, featuring Orsborn's choreography, is all about:

That's our kind of coffee break!

And just last week, The JaM Project released another video, this one featuring Myles' choreography. "Gravity" takes abstract to the next level, really forcing viewers to decide for themselves what it's all about. What do the planes mean? Why are these tappers so melancholy? What does the song (John Mayer's "Gravity") have to do with the theme of the video? This is some deep stuff, guys. Check it out, and find out what "Gravity" says to you:

 

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

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When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

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She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

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Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

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So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.

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