Brandon Stengel, Courtesy Tu Dance

25 to Watch 2018: Alanna Morris-Van Tassel

In a quietly explosive solo embedded in Uri Sands' Matter, Alanna Morris-Van Tassel epitomized the grace and openness for which TU Dance is acclaimed. Wrapped in the American flag, she infused her twists and reaches, bound hands and open-armed vulnerability with a spring-loaded legacy of ancestral grief and personal gratitude before her hunched body detonated in heart-wrenching spasms of release.


Kari Mosel, courtesy Tu Dance

Morris-Van Tassel, who left TU Dance in the fall to embark on a solo career, is also intimately familiar with African diasporic dance traditions, including orisha dance from Trinidad. (Her mother is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.) She's currently building a project that will include solos created for her by Trinidadian choreographer Jamie Philbert (director of Art on Purpose, where Morris-Van Tassel was the artist-in-residence last year) and Israeli choreographer Idan Sharabi (commissioned as part of her 2015 McKnight Dance Fellowship).

Her depth of commitment includes workshops in community spaces and public schools. Wherever you find her, Morris-Van Tassel embodies the power of dance to create deep and lasting connections where words cannot.


Find out who else made Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch" list this year.

Latest Posts


Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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