Curtain Up

April 25, 2011

Tap dance is becoming so popular that it’s spreading into other areas. In March the Danspace Project, a bastion of postmodern dance in Manhattan, produced its first full weekend of tap, with tap stars Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Michelle Dorrance as the choreographers. What an infectious display of skill, joy, and wit this was! (The idea came from David Parker, who knows from tap and who wrote our “Why I Choreograph” in January.) Tickets were so in demand that Danspace had to add an extra show. One of the numbers was Sumbry-Edwards’ tribute to her student Michael Jackson and her mentor Paul Kennedy. Yes, that’s right, the great MJ took private lessons with Dormeshia! In “Tap’s Leading Lady” she talks about MJ’s learning style—and how she broke into an all-male tap enclave and developed her own, decidedly feminine, style.


Tap is also coming to Broadway this spring. It’s been a long time since tappers have gotten work in musicals, but now, with Kathleen Marshall directing Anything Goes, Sutton Foster and the cast of 29 are taking their flaps, slaps, and slurps out of mothballs. In “The Beat of Dancing Feet,” our Broadway maven, Sylviane Gold, explains why tap faded from the Great White Way and why it’s coming back—under Kathleen’s sure but gentle hand.



The Seven Deadly Sins
was one of Balanchine’s most tantalizing ballets. Considering the ballet lost, New York City Ballet commissioned Lynn Taylor-Corbett to re-choreograph it with the original Kurt Weill music, to premiere this month. But, it turns out that Balanchine’s ballet is not entirely lost: Allegra Kent, for whom he revived it in 1958, remembers it well. In “Sinful Memories,” she gives a tasty glimpse of this curious moral travelogue.


Completely unofficially, I call this the mama issue. As luck would have it, Dormeshia just had her third child, Kathleen’s twins are a year old, and Allegra is a mother of three and grandmother of two. Every once in a while it’s nice to give props to those who (heroically) balance motherhood and dance.



Elka Samuels Smith (left), who manages many tappers, is the go-to gal behind the scenes of a whole lot of tap shows—and shoots. Photo by Matthew Karas.