Triumphant Dorrance Dance at The Wallis
How do we find coherence in our world, in our lives? That’s the overarching question explored by Dorrance Dance in their revolutionary, exuberant performance at The Wallis this past weekend.
Michelle Dorrance, a MacArthur Fellow, reinvents the art of tap dance. Percussive sounds motivate movements. Rhythm, even disjunctive rhythm, is the starting point for Dorrance’s choreography; expressed first through feet and bodies, then through music, then formed into a coherent whole unifying physical and audio — motion and sound, physical form and invisible waves.
We feel as though we are watching the process of differentiation, the process of the embryonic self coming into being. Dorrance is unafraid to have her dancers move in spasm. Spasmodic muscle contraction — in the middle ages was it called St. Vitus dance — appears in each of the three pieces presented here. A dancer collapses to the floor, twitching, his muscles operated by neutral pathways void of self-direction. Gradually, painfully, his limbs begin to articulate orderly movement. We’re witnessing the birth of choreography.
Three pieces comprised the 70-minute program. Jungle Blues presents the most traditional version of Dorrance’s jazz-tap origins, with the full company offering different styles the way jazz soloists strut their stuff. But even here tradition is upended, as awkwardness and angular forms take stage. Following is the breathtaking Three To One, a trio piece featuring Dorrance in taps at center, with barefoot men on her right and left. We feel the primacy of bodily percussion, the roots history of tap dance and America’s history of race, and the unifying power of feet and bodies unstrung from gender or ethnicity.
The evening concludes with the West Coast premiere of the full-length Mylenation. It’s the culmination of what has gone before, as the full company moves through the process of developing and discovering coherence. Mylenation is an anatomical term referring to the formation of sheaths around our nerves, sheaths that allow the effective and rapid transmission of information through the body. In this final dance, we watch mylenation embodied.
Michelle Dorrance, herself, is the prime performer of her work. With her tall, angular figure, precise tap strikes, and whip-turned head, she’s a model of precision and grace. The entire company is similarly precise and perfectly coordinated — a rare pleasure to see on stage in LA.
Kudos to The Wallis, once again, for bringing us work that challenges and delights, and points toward artistic futures.
Top image: Dorrance Dance performing the West Coast premiere of Myelination at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis). Pictured (l-r): Byron Tittle and Michelle Dorrance. Photo credit: Kevin Parry for The Wallis.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Leipzig is the founder and CEO of MediaU, online career acceleration. MediaU opens the doors of access for content creation, filmmaking and television. Adam, Cultural Daily’s founder and publisher, has worked with more than 10,000 creatives in film, theatre, television, music, dance, poetry, literature, performance, photography, and design. He has been a producer, distributor or supervising executive on more than 30 films that have disrupted expectations, including A Plastic Ocean, March of the Penguins, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dead Poets Society, Titus and A Plastic Ocean. His movies have won or been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 11 BAFTA Awards, 2 Golden Globes, 2 Emmys, 2 Directors Guild Awards, 4 Sundance Awards and 4 Independent Spirit Awards. Adam teaches at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Adam began his career in theatre; he was the first professional dramaturg in the United States outside of New York City, and he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, where he produced more than 300 plays, music, dance, and other events. Adam is CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, a company that navigates creative entrepreneurs through the Hollywood system and beyond, and a keynote speaker. Adam is the former president of National Geographic Films and senior Walt Disney Studios executive. He has also served in senior capacities at CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization that advocates for the creative community. Adam is is the author of ‘Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers ’ and co-author of the all-in-one resource for college students and emerging filmmakers 'Filmmaking in Action: Your Guide to the Skills and Craft' (Macmillan). (Photo by Jordan Ancel)
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