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Michelle Dorrance is Choreographing for ABT. Yes, You Read That Right.

Michelle Dorrance will make her first work for American Ballet Theatre this spring. Photo by Jayme Thornton

If we weren't already looking forward to American Ballet Theatre's spring gala with trepidation and excitement, we certainly are now. The company announced today that Michelle Dorrance, MacArthur-certified genius and tap dancer extraordinaire, will create a piece d'occasion to kick off ABT's spring season. It will premiere alongside Wayne McGregor's AFTERITE and excerpts from Alexei Ratmansky's new reconstruction of Harlequinade. This marks her first creation for the company.


The work was co-commissioned by Vail International Dance Festival, where Dorrance is artist in residence. ABT is making its first appearance at Vail this summer, during which the company will perform a second work created by Dorrance, accompanied by as-yet-unannounced guest artists from the festival roster.

And if that weren't enough, ABT will debut yet another Dorrance work this October during its fall season. There's no word yet as to whether the dancers will be donning tap shoes, slippers, pointe shoes or some combination thereof for these pieces.

It's a decidedly bold departure for the company. Though Dorrance is known for being a generous collaborator and frequently works with dancers who specialize in styles other than tap (particularly at Vail, where cross-genre collaborations are a matter of course), she has not previously worked with a classical ballet company at this scale.

Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young at the Guggenheim. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Works & Process at the Guggenheim

But then again, it wouldn't be the first time that Dorrance has taken an unlikely project—say, making a site-specific, sound-driven work for the acoustically-difficult Guggenheim rotunda—and turned it into something magical. And even though we can't begin to imagine what a piece made for ABT by Dorrance might look like, it will be nice to see the name of one female choreographer in a spring season dominated (per usual) by after-Petipas and male-choreographed story ballets.

We're curious to see what comes of this new collaboration in the coming months.

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