Jason Koerner, courtesy of the National YoungArts Foundation

Meet Dario Natarelli, the 21-Year-Old Tap Dancer Who's Already Served as Michelle Dorrance's Assistant Choreographer

While tapping to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Dario Natarelli finds a way to make something we have all heard before sound new. His choreography alternately matches the rhythmic cadence of King's words and honors the meaningful pauses between them. Watching the masterful control he has over his footwork and dynamics, it's no wonder tap sensation Michelle Dorrance scooped him up to perform with her and serve as her assistant choreographer at Vail Dance Festival—before he's even graduated from college.



Age: 21

Hometown: Born in Vail, Colorado, and raised in New York City

Training: Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Penn State University

Accolades: 2016 YoungArts winner in dance and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts

Christopher Boudewyns Photography, Courtesy Natarelli

Breakout moment: At 17, he entered a tap contest to win tickets to Broadway's Dames at Sea. After a cast member noticed him and recommended him to a casting agency, Natarelli had the opportunity to audition for Tappin' Thru Life, the off-Broadway show starring Maurice Hines. The creative team was hoping to solely cast siblings for a specific part, but they were so impressed with Natarelli that he landed the role.

Doing it all: Beyond tap, he's studied ballet, contemporary and theater jazz at Broadway Dance Center, and found a mentor in Joshua Bergasse, with whom he still trains.

Christopher Boudewyns Photography, Courtesy Natarelli

Why college: "I felt that college would be a way for me to hone my skills even further so that I can create a career in this industry, not just a one-time gig," says Natarelli, who just finished his junior year in Penn State's musical theater BFA program.

Going viral: After a difficult day at school, he started creating a series of "tap covers." I needed to blow off some steam by choreographing something that had the same intensity that I was feeling," he says. His cover of Hamilton's "Guns and Ships" racked up more than 700,000 views and was shared by the musical.

Dancing with Michelle Dorrance: Natarelli first performed at Vail Dance Festival in 2016, after mentor Jared Grimes recommended him to artistic director Damian Woetzel. Dorrance cast Natarelli in her company's Vail premiere the following year, and asked him to be her assistant choreographer there. "She truly opened up my mind and showed me the endless possibilities that one can create with dance," he says.

What Dorrance is saying: "Dario has always been a joy to work with. He has so much heart and spirit in his dance and the music he makes."

Natarelli dancing with Michelle Dorrance.

Erin Baiano Photo, Courtesy Natarelli.

What's next: "I'd love to have my own tap company in the future," says Natarelli.

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Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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