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Speaking In Rhythm Of Footwork
Feb 17, 2011 --

 

SPRING PERFORMANCE: DANCE

Speaking In Rhythm Of Footwork

The tap dancers Michelle Dorrance, left, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, will share the stage at Danspace Project from March 10 through 12.

Elliott Franks

Ángel Muñoz, the star of Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, returns to Town Hall.

Silly me. Four years later I’m still captivated by the memory of that troupe and in particular by its star dancer, the inimitable Ángel Muñoz. By turns wild and austere, Mr. Muñoz offered a mesmerizing blend of stillness, speed and exactitude. His feet spit out dizzying rhythms even as his torso and arms coiled with an almost meditative calm; the effect was of a jackhammer, wired for precision.

Technical chops are one thing, and no small thing. But the most marvelous aspect was how much Mr. Muñoz had to say as a dancer. His physical abilities were in service of deeply felt emotional narratives, different facets of which became clear in the dances he performed. The ability to convey meaning is a rare form of artistic virtuosity — rarer, even, than corporeal skills.

On Thursday the Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company returns to Town Hall with “Flamenco Vivo.” The production is new; let us hope everything else about this terrific ensemble remains the same.

Tap, like flamenco, is one of dance’s most binding marriages of movement and music. And few tap dancers today embody that union as joyously and authoritatively asDormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. She commands attention — and rewards it amply.

From March 10 through 12 at Danspace Project, Ms. Sumbry-Edwards will share the stage with Michelle Dorrance, another of tap’s leading lights. The two are about as different as you can get in style and stage presence: Ms. Dorrance radiates a sly tomboy charm to Ms. Sumbry-Edwards’s sultry smolder. In different ways each is working to expand ingrained notions about what it means to be a woman and a hoofer. Given this, it’s especially intriguing to read, in the program’s descriptions, that these artists “share an interest in the evolving identities of women in tap.”

Tap tends to be marginalized, even within dance. So it’s also heartening to see that their show is included in the current Danspace Platform, “Body Madness,” as part of programs organized by the choreographer David Parker. Mr. Parker has long integrated tap into his own work. Cheers to him, and to Danspace, for doing their bit to expand what can be a regrettably insular contemporary dance scene.