(Matthew Murphy, courtesy Dorrance)

What Inspires Tapper Michelle Dorrance's Choreography

Since founding her company, NYC-based Dorrance Dance, in 2011, Michelle Dorrance has won one major award after another, starting with a Bessie and culminating in 2015's MacArthur Fellowship. Like most tappers, she's quick to cite the legends and masters who came before her. But Dorrance's belief in the power of tap has helped her carve out space for her own genre-bending work. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Dorrance at the St. Louis Tap Festival (Gene Medler, courtesy Dorrance)

"I founded Dorrance Dance to push myself in directions I wouldn't necessarily choose on my own. We're working to institutionalize tap and get it represented at colleges, at jazz festivals."

“My early mentor Gene Medler took us to the second annual St. Louis Tap Festival, where we learned the African and Irish roots of the form."

“Individual dancers often trigger something I'd like to create. Warren Craft is so striking and unique. He pushes boundaries to the extreme, and he's entirely unpredictable."

Members of Dorrance Dance performing The Blues Project (Em Watson, courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance)

“I'm obsessed with New Orleans culture. The rawness and improvisation inside jazz music is embedded in tap."

“I've performed at The Joyce Theater in other people's work, but having our own season there was really special. The dance that has inspired me most? I've seen more than half of it at the Joyce."

“I have three places that are like home: DANY Studios, where I have an artistic residency, the American Tap Dance Foundation and The Clemente theater in NYC. We have a studio there that used to be the urinal!"

Performing SOUNDspace (Matthew Murphy, courtesy Dorrance)

“SOUNDspace is the site-specific work I created in St. Mark's Church. We explored the way sound reverberated in the space by using different kinds of taps, shoes and socks."

“Sometimes I picture things when I choreograph. But most often I hear things. I don't usually know the vocabulary of a piece when I start, but I know the energy."

“Blues and tap are the oldest American art forms, and they're rooted in the

plantation. The Blues Project was my first full evening of work, and I wanted to put blues and tap together to establish historical context because they're rarely thought of as contemporaries. The show has affected a lot of communities in an important way."

“For ETM: The Initial Approach, Nicholas Van Young [pictured] created 'trigger boards' that can make a footfall sound like anything. You're playing the music you're dancing to,while you're dancing."

Nicholas Van Young (Christopher Duggan, courtesy Dorrance)

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.


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