Dorrance Dance

Friday, October 27, 2017
Cal Performances, UC Berkeley


Michelle Dorrance brought her company to the Bay Area last year. The group performed at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, but Dorrance herself did not perform. This year at Zellerbach Hall, the full company, including Dorrance tapped their way into the eyes, hearts and exuberant delight of an enthusiastic audience.

The program consisted of three events, two from former years, concluding with a 2017 co-commissioned by Cal Performances of “Myelination.” This last work with music by Prawn til Dante (and others) played by Donovan Dorrance, Aaron Marcellus, Gregory Richardson and Nicholas Van Young with Warren Craft, was a true ‘jazz’ and ‘jump” fest including improvisations by the dancers and ‘riffs’ in both the music and dance.

All the dancers are amazingly skilled. The four women and six men work solos and duets which are often competitive, sometimes supportive and now and then ‘dancing the blues’. The company members are tall and short, black and white and in-between. But they all sure can dance.

As the press release says, “this is not your father’s tap dance.” Dorrance has moved the vocabulary so that there is evidence of hip-hop, break dance, acrobatics and ballroom figures, stunts, tumbling and even military marches. The 2012 number, “Jungle Blues” keeps the line going as individuals break out for their turn. There is a super solo for dancer Christopher Broughton. The piece is set to the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

Dorrance gives herself her solo in “Three for One,” music by Aphex Twin and Thom Yorke. She starts with dancers Byron Tittle and Matthew “Megawatt” West by her sides. Only legs are visible. The two men jig and jog around her and then leave as Dorrance stays center slowing moving upstage, her feet and legs executing marvelous rhythms.

She gives her other women colleagues bigger parts in “Myelination,” so that the woman, Claudia Rahardjanoto, Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie and Elizabeth Burke have unique solos, some duets special roles. Each of these women are delightfully different: small, tall, exuberant, cool. The men too are very varied in size and skill. It’s a pleasure to see such variety on stage.

The dancers not mentioned are Christopher Broughton, Warren Craft, Gregory Richardson, Nicholas Van Young and Gabriel Winns Ortiz.

Cheers, applause and bravo to them all and especially Michelle Dorrance for an exciting, innovative evening of dance.

Joanna G. Harris