Friday, February 17, 2017

Play the floor: Dorrance and Young at the Guggenheim

Michelle Dorrance
(photo: Works & Process at the Guggenheim/Jacklyn Meduga)

Audience waiting for the opening
Works & Process: Rotunda Project performance
at the Guggenheim Museum rotunda
(photo: Eva Yaa Asantewaa)

Despite what you might have read, tap dance is not on its last legs. Nor is it at death's door. Not while gifted makers like Michelle Dorrance and Nicholas Van Young still craft new ways to put its legacy and possibilities, its fun and glories in front of ever-expanding audiences like the ones that packed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum last night for three back-to-back performances for Works & Process: Rotunda Project, the museum's new residency and commissioning initiative.

The opening crowd, for the 6:30 show, was an eager and, it should be noted, overwhelmingly white audience--fairly easy to notice as people climbed and lined the museum's famous helical ramps, single-file, to view the museum's ground floor, the primary area for performance. Seeing the show required standing at the ramp's balconies for about 30 minutes plus the wait time before the show started.

According to a New York Times report, when Dorrance, Young and the troupe got their first go-round at the rotunda, they were shocked to discover its tap-unfriendly acoustics. Ooops.

Above: Claudia Rahardjanoto
Below: Dorrance and Young
(photos: Matthew Murphy)

Well, being smart people, they set to work on this formidable beast and, while perhaps not quite besting it, they created a playful sonic dialogue with it. From the opening boom, boom, boom of Dorrance's straddled drum, to angelic voices spiraling towards the skylight, to Young's body percussion and whistling, to the clack and rumble of batons on the floor, wooden boxes or balustrades, music was made by determined performers, and the audience got a lesson in music as a phenomenon of bodies in motion in space, any space. The charming Young even served as conductor, wordlessly training the audience in a complex score and drawing delighted laughter from us. Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie, the Bessie-nominated b-girl, paired with Matthew "Mega Watts" West to contribute hypnotic breakdance segments like jewels nestled inside settings offered by their colleagues and the gleaming white floor.

Gazing down on that floor for most of the performance gave watchers a view of dancers who resembled worker ants or a crisp marching corps as they executed elaborate geometry and braids of formations. Towards the end, the sixteen dancers strapped on tap shoes, bringing the thunder to platforms and planks of wood: We shall have tap!

And so, they shall. And so shall we.


Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie
Elizabeth Burke
Warren Craft
Donovan Dorrance
Michelle Dorrance
Michael Landis
Aaron Marcellus
Carson Murphy
Gabe Winns Ortiz
Claudia Rahardjanoto
Gregory Richardson
Leonardo Sandoval
Byron Tittle
Penelope Wendtlandt
Matthew "Mega Watts" West
Nicholas Van Young

Lighting: Kathy Kaufmann

Works & Process Rotunda Project: Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young has concluded. For updates on future events in the Guggenheim Works & Process series, click here.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

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