Dorrance Dance review – tip-top tap gets into the groove

Sadler’s Wells, London
Michelle Dorrance’s superb pieces range from rubber-legged slapstick to brilliantly musical moves

Michelle Dorrance may be a dancer, but musicianship is the bedrock of her talent. Dorrance’s rhythm tap (as opposed to theatrical tap dance) is as much a musical form as a physical one; some of the dancers even double as instrumentalists. The New York choreographer’s 2017 piece Myelination, preceded here by a couple of short works, is a live exchange with an on-stage jazz band – jazz in the loosest sense of the word. The title refers to a process that helps neurons transmit information quickly, and there’s a lot of info whizzing around the stage, as dancers actualise and amplify the rhythmic layers and crosscurrents of the music, and offer their own propositions.

Dorrance orchestrates her dancers as a stylish group, but there is plenty of space for their individual personalities to shine. Dorrance herself has a “Let’s do this!” air, and seemingly endless permutations of rhythm and texture at her feet. In a trio with other female dancers, their feet skim the surface of the stage, creating complex lace-like patterns.

Christopher Broughton in Myelination and Other Works by Dorrance Dance.
Showman … Christopher Broughton in Myelination and Other Works by Dorrance Dance. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

There is tall, gawky-framed Warren Craft, who has a fascinatingly awkward style and a bit of David Byrne about him. (He cameos on guitar as well.) Craft’s fidgety expulsions are like abrupt bursts of thought he’s just got to get out. In the opening piece, Jungle Blues, he slides across the stage in rubber-legged slapstick – also great.

Byron Tittle is a dancer of distinctive grace, Christopher Broughton more of a showman, his whole body joyfully propelling his beats, and Nicholas Van Young, in suit and tie, looks as if he’s come from a bad day at work and has a lot to say about it in a cavalcade of super-fast taps. Dorrance includes two hip-hop dancers who add another layer of texture.

Some rhythm tap can seem like a punishing, never-ending drum solo. Dorrance’s work is all about clarity of melody, counterpoint and groove as she upends tap dance’s cheesy reputation. Her work is great fun and full of pleasure, but it also dances with complexity, musicality, invention and effortless style.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Darbar festival review – blazing celebration of Indian dance
The Temple of Fine Arts explode with energy and Nahid Siddiqui captivates with her lightness and gravity

Sanjoy Roy

27, Nov, 2019 @3:12 PM

Article image
Richard Alston Dance Company review – class and craft
Classical virtuosity combines with contemporary sensibility in this latest programme exploring the relationship between music and dance

Lyndsey Winship

03, Mar, 2019 @3:41 PM

Article image
Reckonings review – the next big things in dance
The theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary with three ambitious, striking, heart-lifting new commissions from Botis Seva, Julie Cunningham and Alesandra Seutin

Lyndsey Winship

12, Oct, 2018 @7:00 PM

Article image
Richard Alston Dance Company review – stillness, serenity and funk
Alston’s latest programme is a touching testament to his half century in the rigorous pursuit of purity in movement

Judith Mackrell

26, Mar, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
Emanuel Gat: Works review – moving, mysterious dance is a delight
Relationships between the Israeli choreographer’s idiosyncratic dancers play out on stage in a surreal and touching show

Lyndsey Winship

12, Nov, 2019 @12:49 PM

Article image
Darbar festival review – Akram Khan's spellbinding taster of Indian dance
Curated by Khan, this celebration of classical Indian music dips into dance forms boasting symmetry, balance and beauty

Lyndsey Winship

26, Nov, 2018 @11:18 AM

Article image
Young Associates / National Youth Dance Company review – the future is cooking
There are plenty of ideas and energy in this showcase for young choreographers and dancers, with scope to hone skills further

Lyndsey Winship

21, Jul, 2019 @4:07 PM

Article image
Top 10 dance shows of 2018
Romeo and Juliet muddled into middle age, Akram Khan suffered shell-shock, Rambert2 lost control – and William Forsythe gave ballet a stratospheric street shakeup

Judith Mackrell and Lyndsey Winship

17, Dec, 2018 @6:00 PM

Article image
Judith Mackrell's top 10 dance shows of 2016
Jane Eyre duetted with Rochester, Akram Khan imagined a refugee Giselle and Jonathon Young battled his demons in a nightmare cabaret. Our critic picks this year’s best dance

Judith Mackrell

14, Dec, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
The top 10 dance shows of 2017
Sgt Pepper strutted, Boris Charmatz gave us a buttock-scratching beauty and three men became Lady Macbeth – our critic picks the best dance of the year

Judith Mackrell

18, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM