Celebrating Dance Magazine Award Honoree Dormeshia
If you ask a tap dancer who their favorite hoofers are, it’s not likely they’ll omit Dormeshia. Her popularity even spreads by word of foot, so to speak: Some dancers have used the term “DSE”—the initials of her full name, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards—to refer to a phrase she often executes: a grab-off variation followed by a shuffle pullback and a flap.
It’s a tight, crisp, elegant bar of music that can be graceful and enunciated, ending on the count of 4, or a rapid, machine-gun rhythm that ends on 3. She could probably come up with five other variations on the step that the rest of us would never think of—and all with impeccable clarity and unwavering gusto.
Even when improvising in her suede Pumas, as she sometimes does in short videos on Instagram, every intricacy is as clear as if she were wearing her silver heels. No matter the tune or tempo, Dormeshia nails every rhythm with ease and aplomb, transforming even a simple groove into a transfixing melody.
A protégé of Paul and Arlene Kennedy, she made her Broadway debut at age 12 in Black and Blue, later joining Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk as the show’s first and only female dancer. Defining a woman’s place in tap has become a central part of Dormeshia’s career. This past spring saw the third annual iteration of Ladies in the Shoe, a workshop she hosts during Women’s History Month, each week featuring class and conversation with a different female hoofer.
She’s been the muse of many a choreographer—such as Derick K. Grant and Jason Samuels Smith—and garnered acclaim in recent years for her own creations. With her choreography for Michelle Dorrance’s The Blues Project and her own show And Still You Must Swing, she’s shown a deep respect for, and intimate knowledge of, tap’s ties to jazz music and Black culture. We often hear tap described as a uniquely American dance form, and Dormeshia—who can now be seen on a U.S. postage stamp—fully explores that statement in her work, plumbing tap’s power as a uniting force during divisive times.
The Viola Davis of her art form, Dormeshia is a lifelong student of her craft who has won an Astaire Award, a Princess Grace Award, a Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award and two Bessie Awards. She has her peers and admirers alike at the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting her next move and hoping that the show never ends.
Join Dance Magazine in celebrating Dormeshia at the December 6 Dance Magazine Awards ceremony. Tickets are now available here.