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

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

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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Courtesy Schelfhaudt

These Retired Ballroom Dancers Started a Dance-Themed Coffee Company

Like many dancers, when Lauren Schelfhaudt and Jean Paul retired from professional ballroom dancing in 2016, they felt lost. "There was this huge void," says Schelfhaudt.

But after over 20 years of dancing, plus United States and World Championship titles, reality shows, and high-profile choreography gigs (and Paul's special claim to fame, as "the guy who makes Bradley Cooper look bad" in Silver Linings Playbook), teaching just didn't fill the void. "I got to the point where it wasn't giving me that creative outlet," says Paul.

When the pair (who are life and business partners but were never dance partners—they competed against one another) took a post-retirement trip to Costa Rica, they were ready to restart their lives. They found inspiration in an expected place: A visit to a coffee farm.

Though they had no experience in coffee roasting or business, they began building their own coffee company. In 2018, the duo officially launched Dancing Ox Coffee Roasters, where they create dance-inspired blends out of their headquarters in Belmont, North Carolina.

We talked to Schelfhaudt and Paul about how their dance background makes them better coffee roasters, and why coffee is an art form all its own:

GO DEEPER