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.

Latest Posts


Hayim Heron, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow

Why Three of the Biggest U.S. Summer Dance Festivals Pulled the Plug Months in Advance

March 31, 2020: It was the day the summer dance festivals died. Though the respective directors of Jacob's Pillow, American Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival hadn't planned to announce the cancellations of their 2020 editions all on the same day, their decisions appeared in inboxes and on social media channels within hours of each other. This news—marking the first operational break for these three festivals in their combined 212-year history—stood out among the host of spring event cancellations for its prescience. Most summer dance programs were still waiting to make any announcements, in the hope that more time might allow for less drastic cuts to programming. (Vail Dance Festival, which had been scheduled to open July 31, did not announce its cancellation until mid-May.)

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS