Leticia Jay (back left) and dancers at one of her Tap Happenings. Photo courtesy Jane Goldberg's Changing Times Tap archive
Writing in Dance Magazine in 1969 about Tap Happenings, those weekly tap dance jams at the Bert Wheeler Theater in New York City, critic Patrick O'Connor commented on dancers Sandra Gibson and Leticia Jay, the two sole female performers: "Gibson, the first of the red hot 'soul' mamas does a number, as does Leticia Jay, but face it, the evening belongs to the men."
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Jason Samuels Smith and Derick K. Grant take the floor during our cover shoot.
In 1989, Congress passed a resolution naming May 25—the birthday of tap legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson—as National Tap Dance Day, and it has been celebrated annually on that date ever since. For years, the May issue of Dance Magazine featured a tap dancer on its cover to coincide with the holiday and highlight the form.
But some considered the gesture to be mere tokenism. "It feels like a handout," says tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith. "Our art form deserves more than that."
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
To me, dancing is an opportunity to exist in an alternate reality. With my imagination moving galaxies per minute, there's no telling what I will do, when or how—and that's my escape from this world.
It's common for my mind to drift off and borrow ideas from a character in a Disney movie while performing with Wynton Marsalis, or to be thinking about how algorithms work while performing with Mariah Carey on "Good Morning America."
Fall For Dance is always a huge talkabout here in the Dance Media offices. So after all the programs were performed this year, a few of the editors from Dance Magazine, Pointe and Dance Teacher got together on Google Hangouts this morning to share our thoughts. Here are excerpts from our convo:
A still from Dorrance Dance's promo video for Myelination
Back in May at our photo shoot for Dance Magazine's 90th-anniversary issue, we fell in love with Michelle Dorrance all over again. We've known for years that she's obviously gifted, but our jaws still dropped as she improvised on set, rattling off playful but rigorous strings of tap genius with the utmost ease. Now, she's got us drooling once more.
Michelle Dorrance has just returned from Stockholm, where she was teaching without pause for much of the previous week. Before that, she had a pit stop in New York, a quick gig in Los Angeles and performances in New Hampshire. "It was relentless," she says in a huskier-than-usual voice, owing to a cold. The breakneck itinerary is an apt illustration of what an in-demand artist she has become, especially since receiving a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2015.
While that recognition may have introduced her to a new audience, dance fans and critics were already swooning for her sophisticated musicality, thrilling ensemble arrangements and layered choreography that hits a wide range of emotional notes.
Yet Dorrance would rather not be the subject of this profile. Though a proud ambassador for her art form and always eager to promote it, she resists the false narrative that often accompanies stories about her of a so-called tap revival, and the impulse to identify a "lone ranger" to represent it. "Tap's always been around. There's always been brilliant artists, it's just not in the spotlight," she says. "It was the same conversation when I was a teenager in the '90s." (Then, Savion Glover, with whom Dorrance has performed, was the "It" tapper.)
Here at Dance Magazine, we're celebrating Star Wars Day—May the 4th—the only way we know how: with some of the quirkiest dance tributes in the galaxy. From tap to ballet to hip hop, no one can resist the force.
Sarah Reich. Photo by Jeremy Jackson, Courtesy SILLAR Management
What's one way to drum up interest in tap dancing? Team up with an uber-popular band whose YouTube channel racks up views by the millions, and whose videos are no stranger to Facebook feeds of many non-dancers. That's just what tapper Sarah Reich did for her latest collaboration with Postmodern Jukebox. The band has made a name for itself by covering everything from Beyoncé to Aerosmith to the Star Wars score, so you can imagine how varied their fan-base is.
"Evolution of Tap Dance," loosely riffs off the 2006 YouTube hit "Evolution of Dance," which cataloged mainstream dance moves through the years. While it makes for a catchy name, PMJ's video is more of a history of pop songs from 1899 to present day, set to tap dancing. (We'd like to see an actual evolution of tap in under five minutes. Anyone up for the challenge?) Nonetheless, Reich gives an impeccable performance, morphing her dancing to match each song's genre and era as PMJ cycles through ragtime, big band swing, lounge jazz, funk, EDM and more.
What's most impressive is Reich's versatile musicality. During Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," she matches every note of the piano's quick, jangling tune. At the beginning of the epic, electronic song that is "Sandstorm," the band drops out and Reich becomes the sole music maker. Many times throughout the video, she rides above the music, adding a satisfying layer of complexity to the band's melody or baseline.
If YouTube is what it takes to get tap into more people's homes (or smartphones or laptops), we're all for it. Hopefully, it inspires some to even head to a live dance performance. Reich and Anissa Lee, who have both danced with Syncopated Ladies, are currently part of PMJ's world tour.