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In the News > In Church, Tapping Out Memorials

11 Mar 2011



In Church, Tapping Out Memorials


Tap and Danspace Project have never really hooked up, but David Parker, the artist-programmer behind the latest Platform series, Rhythm & Humor, would like to change that. On Thursday he presented the first performance of a shared evening showcasingMichelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. It was, he said, “the culmination of a long-held dream.”ErThat ambition, to see a full evening of tap at the project’s theater, in St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, is acoustically cogent: whether lightning footwork leads to thunderous rhythms or softer accents, the sound has a way of reverberating throughout the high-ceilinged sanctuary.

Falling under the overarching Body Madness Platform rubric, the program is part tribute show: Ms. Dorrance’s “Remembering Jimmy” is created in honor of Jimmy Slyde,who was known for his slide step, which integrates sweeping leg movements and intricate rhythmical phrasing. Ms. Sumbry-Edwards unveils “Blood on the Dance Floor,” in memory of Michael Jackson — she was his tap teacher for a decade — and Paul Kennedy, her mentor.

“Remembering Jimmy” pays homage to a tap master in both adoring and unaffected terms. It’s hypnotic; the stage is alive with slippery footsteps as dancers — dressed in white and wearing socks — slide from side to side like a flock of ghostly speed skaters.

Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards performing a tribute to Michael Jackson as part of her shared evening with her fellow tap dancer Michelle Dorrance in Danspace Project’s Platform series at St. Mark’s Church.

Smack in the center is Ms. Dorrance, the light within: her sunny charisma and lanky body work in mesmerizing combination as she glides across the floor or hits it with fury. (Her coordination and speed are incredible.) After sharing the stage with Cartier Williams and Caleb Teicher — a sleek dancer who possesses a beguiling combination of a relaxed upper body with switchblade feet — Ms. Dorrance completes the tribute by dancing on the raised sanctuary.


She is less successful in her four-part “petite suite” — somewhat tedious in vaudevillian flavor — but the payoff is an improvisation by Mr. Williams, who wears a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other and at times flutters across the stage on his toes in a penetrating snapshot of strength and agility.

“Blood on the Dance Floor,” set to a selection of Jackson songs, is all over the place. There is the deliriously happy “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ ” (it’s right out of “Glee”); a stale, showy duet for two men, Logan Miller and Mr. Teicher (the woman is virtual in “The Girl Is Mine”); and finally an introspective solo performed by Ms. Sumbry-Edwards, whose subtle syncopation is self-explanatory in “Gone Too Soon.”

Ms. Dorrance, to her credit, does experiment in “Three to One,” a work for herself and two barefoot dancers exploring the idea of an awkward or a broken body.

In “15 Step,” the concluding number, Ms. Dorrance and Ms. Sumbry-Edwards collaborate in a middling reinterpretation of the Radiohead song. As the two dancers trade steps, with a group of others clapping loudly at the back of the stage, Benjamin B. Lee strums a guitar, and Ms. Dorrance serenades Ms. Sumbry-Edwards by wailing the lyrics. It’s an aimless finale, yet sums up the night: a little bit hokey, but with some brilliant moves.


Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards perform through Saturday at Danspace Project, St. Mark’s Church, 131 East 10th Street, East Village; (866) 811-4111, danspaceproject.org; sold out.



Gia Kourlas