When the wonderful contemporary dancer, Lex Ishimoto, (who won this season’s So You Think You Can Dance,) recently posed the Twitter question, “So what’s your favorite performance of me from the show?!,” I immediately answered, “The tap one,” followed by a plethora of exclamation points! Tap is such a higher level of dance to me, just below ballet. That’s because so few dancers who excel in other styles are capable of tapping, while tappers can usually do other styles.
So, I was thrilled to see this very unusual tap dance company at The Wallis in Beverly Hills last night. I’m actually rushing this review through so that my fellow Angelenos won’t miss their opportunity to see Dorrance Dance for themselves, this week-end only!
This company is distinguished by a whole lot of creative choreography performed by a group of very disparate dancers. Talk about thinking outside the box! I never even thought of a slow tap dance before, let alone see one!
This program consists of a trio of routines which are anything but! All three are, without a doubt, the most unusual tap dances I’ve ever seen. In the last lengthy piece, a couple of performers didn’t even have taps on their shoes, and those two even breakdanced and krumped a bit!
The whole show is under an hour and a half, and it absolutely flies by. It starts off with Jungle Blues, which got my attention right away; the choreography is so not the norm. It’s highlighted by a duet, of sorts, by company founder and Artistic Director, Michelle Dorrance, and Warren Craft, a rubbery guy who looks like he’d be right at home on the sci-fi television show Fringe! (Actually, I think they all would!)
The second one up, Three to One, is the most unique tap dance ever! I don’t want to spoil the surprise of it for you, so I won’t tell you more, except that it reminded my friend, Lisa, of a clock, I assume due to the precision of the footwork and the way the trio worked together.
I was really wowed by all of it, but at that point I found myself longing a bit for some good old-fashioned Tap Dance Kid, Nicholas Brothers, Lex Ishimoto-Gaby Diaz show biz tapping. And then I got it! Okay, Myelination is not quite my old pals, the Nicholas Brothers, but the forty-five minute number has a bit of everything in the way of tap dancing. You really can’t look away for even one second, or you’ll miss something special. (I have a feeling that a lot of it is improvised, so you may even be treated to something different than I was.)
The entire piece is in that unique vein, but in the middle, Nicholas Van Young started-off the pure, old school tap dance that I wanted to witness before the show was over. He was immediately followed by my favorite part of the presentation—an eye-popping duet from Michelle and Byron Tittle. I was wishing that part would go on longer.
I also love that the musicians are featured right on stage with the dancers for that number. And three of the four play multiple instruments. And what does the fourth guy, the percussionist, do extra? Glad you asked—he’s the aforementioned tap dancer, Nicholas Van Young! What an incredibly multi-talented group of artists the audience is lucky enough to see!!! I’m happy the opening night crowd was so appreciative of the cast’s efforts.
I could have definitely used some better wardrobe to look at, though. My mother always loved to tell the story of when I saw my first modern dance performance as a little girl who was used to beautiful ballets. She says that when I saw the non-ballet costumes, I embarrassingly loudly inquired, “Why are they wearing shmatahs???” (“Rags,” if you’re not of my ethnic persuasion.) I’m used to all kinds of wardrobe now, but I still wish that Dorrance Dance would up their game in that category. (And no offense to the one female—whom I won’t name—who wore her hair on top of her head in the oh-so-unattractive “do” that some think is hip now, but it is not–it looks like the wearers of it are about to wash their faces in the privacy of their own homes, with no one else around!)
But that’s my only tiny complaint.
So, my fellow SoCal lovers of dance—hie thee to The Wallis this week-end to see Dorrance Dance! Remember—it’s your only chance to see the show in this neck of the woods. (You can thank me later.)
And one final word: The Wallis is the best place in the world to see dance shows! So don’t miss any there!
Dorrance Dance running through October 14, 2017
Wallis Annenberg Theater For The Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Boulevard Beverly Hills 310-746-4000 www.thewallis.org