Michelle Dorrance is a New York City-based tap dancer, choreographer, director, teacher, performer, and the founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance. Mentored by Gene Medler, she grew up performing with his North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble and has since performed with: STOMP, Savion Glover’s Ti Dii, Manhattan Tap, Barbara Duffy & Company, JazzTap Ensemble, Rumba Tap, Ayodele Casel’s Diary of a Tap Dancer, Mable Lee’s Dancing Ladies, Harold Cromer’s original Opus One, Derick Grant’s Imagine Tap!, Jason Samuels Smith’s Charlie’s Angels/Chasing the Bird, Jon Batiste and Stay Human on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. She also toured the US, Europe, and Australia playing the bass for indie-pop sensation Darwin Deez.
[The words “Art Is” appear, followed by scrolling words…Empathy, Creativity, a Human Right, Change, Expression…it stops at Social Change. Art Is Social Change.]
[On a large stage, Michelle and dancers perform. Throughout the video, footage of tap dancers like Josephine Baker, Gregory Hines, the Syncopated Ladies, and Savion Glover is interspersed with Michelle’s interview.]
Michelle Dorrance, tap dancer and choreographer: Art reflects our country’s community. Tap dancing has always been sort of a bastard of the dance forms, and yet it is this incredibly sophisticated, incredibly exciting form, a very cutting-edge form, constantly reinventing itself—and also reflecting what is going on in American culture.
To tell the story of the history of tap dance is also to move through the history of the United States of America. Early tap dancers were catalysts for social change— from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Shirley Temple being the first black and white hand to be ever held on the silver screen… on through civil rights.
To be a professional tap dancer is to be a historian. It’s something that my generation, we, I think, hold very near and dear to who we are as practitioners of the form. Every single time you have an opportunity to share it, we want to reference the past and yet show its possibilities moving forward.
[The words “Art Is” appear, followed by scrolling words…Social Change, Expression, Change, Creativity, Healing…it stops at Justice. Hashtag Art Is Justice. Agree? Share this video.]
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Most recently, Dorrance served as Vail Dance Festival’s 2017 artist-in-residence, curated Tireless: A Tap Dance Experience at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival while co-directing its tap education program with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, and collaborated with Nicholas Van Young on Works and Process at the Guggenheim Museum’s first site-specific commission for the Guggenheim Rotunda. Dorrance’s choreography is performed throughout the world and has been featured at countless theaters, clubs, and festivals, including a choreographic commission for the Martha Graham Dance Company as a part of their Lamentation Variations, and a high-fashion short film for Tabitha Simmons.
Dorrance is a 2016-17 New York City Center Choreography Fellow, 2016 United States Artists Award recipient, 2015 MacArthur Fellow, 2014 Alpert Award winner, 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, 2012 Princess Grace Award winner, 2012 Field Dance Fund recipient, and a 2011/2015 Bessie Award winner. She is an artist-in-residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation, has been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher magazine, is a Capezio Athlete, is a Virgo (Aquarius rising, Gemini moon), and her favorite colors are various shades of green and grey.
A passionate educator, Dorrance holds a BA from New York University, teaches on faculty at IFTRA, was on faculty at Broadway Dance Center for over a decade, and teaches as a guest artist at universities, festivals, and arts organizations throughout the world. She wishes to credit the master hoofers she studied with in her youth for constant inspiration and influence.