Dorrance Dance

The last time I experienced live tap dancing was when I lived in Park Slope. An older man regularly tapped on a plywood board near the entrance to one of the ornate tunnels near Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park. The acoustics were amazing, and I always admired his dedication to his art. The last time I was mesmerized by electronic music was when I was in art school in NYC, dancing the nights away at clubs like The Limelight and The Tunnel. The last time I thrilled to an afternoon of pure percussion was when Mantra Percussion performed Michael Gordon’s riveting piece called Timber at the Noguchi Museum in 2013. Last night at The Joyce Theater, however, I experienced tap dance not only as percussion, but also as live electronic music! Dance, percussion and electronic music completely intertwined — a new twist on three of my favorite things! Who knew? Dorrance Dance knew, that’s who! This company of fiercely individual dancers presented ETM: Double Down to thunderous (and appropriately percussive) applause. Let me tell you, this was one of the most energetic and innovative evenings of dance and music I have ever encountered. Much of the piece was performed on wooden boards of various sizes (trigger pads) that were connected to contact mics. Using a computer program called Ableton Live, notes and chords could be created to sound on contact. The boards were force sensitive, and using a modified Wii controller, the dancers — as well as the amazing vocalist, Aaron Marcellus — could create live sound loops. The result was electric — or rather, electronic tap music! At times I imagined a hip techno version of the giant keyboard scene at FAO Shwartz in the movie, Big. Other times the image of a frenetic game of groovy musical Twister came to mind. The talent of these smokin’ tap dancers was jaw-dropping. The choreography would have held up beautifully on its own. But with the addition of this amazing technology (kudos to choreographer/techno genius Nicholas Van Young) these dancers were also quite literally playing music together! Multi-form dancer Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie was pure energy, and a perfect complement to these bad-ass hoofers. Artistic Director Michelle Dorrance joined Van Young to give a fascinating Curtain Chat after the performance, during which I was able to piece to together the answer to my question, “How the heck did they DO that?” Hopefully I have explained it somewhat coherently and acurately. If any of you Dorrance Dance performers have anything to add — or correct — please do leave a comment!

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