Tap dance is, of course, the USA’s quintessential dance form; but if your notion of it stops at the tailcoats, high heels and sequins of Fred and Ginger, you need to rewind. Tap dance has definitely stepped out of the ballroom and into the street.
A mean tap dancer herself, Michelle Dorrance has extended the possibilities of the genre beyond what was thought possible and blended it with other forms such as break dance. Add a floor wired for sound amplifying the rhythmic taps of Dorrance Dance’s company of 11 and dialoguing with a live band on stage, and you have a novel kind of multi-layered show.
Myelination is the main piece of the current triple bill. The title comes from a scientific term denoting a biological process which speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses. You can see how perfectly that process fits with tap, a form of dance so reliant on syncopated rhythms not unlike electrical impulses.
Myelination is a work for the whole company, including two trainer-shod break dancers, whose dialogue with the tap dancers is a mix of joint effort and humourous challenge. It’s accompanied by an excellent live post-modern jazz band, where the multi-talented dancer Warren Craft does a brief stint on the guitar.
The work is varied and intersperses exuberant sequences for the whole company with smaller groupings and solos that show off the specific talents of individual dancers. Some of it is pre-choreographed, some improvised, the dancers pushing for ever faster and more intricate steps, all loose limbed and seemingly relaxed. Christopher Broughton and Nicholas Van Young dazzled.
Myelination is preceded by two short amuse bouches: Jungle Blues and Three To One. The former, danced to Jelly Roll Morton’s eponymous score, establishes a Southern, bluesy climate, all lazy smiles and shrugging shoulders, where Byron Tittle stands out as a dancer of eloquent elegance and grace, with an endearing touch of cheek.
Three To One starts by showing three pairs of legs encased in a rectangle of light: Dorrance in her tap shoes flanked by two barefoot male dancers. They execute the same steps, creating an interesting contrast between the audible taps and their silent counterparts.
As the lights slowly reveal the dancers’ whole bodies, so the dance loses its rigorous coordination, until the two men go off, leaving Dorrance to tap uncertainly into the falling darkness.
At 70 minutes with no interval, Dorrance Dance’s current triple bill makes for a relaxing and entertaining evening. And at a time when dark and gloomy stages seem de rigueur for much contemporary dancing, special plaudits must go to Kathy Kaufmann, whose lighting design is varied, atmospheric and creative, and yet still bathes the stage in enough light that we can properly see the performance. Brava!
|What||Dorrance Dance, Myelination and other works Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
14 Nov 19 – 16 Nov 19, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour 10 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|