Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 20, 2018

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, Dorrance Dance

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through July 22, 2018
by Josephine Sarnelli

Michelle Dorrance is to tap dancing what Michael Flatley is to Irish dancing. Both saw a need to revive a traditional dance form to keep it relevant for a new generation. Dorrance Dance successfully pays homage to the past as it surges into the future.

As the audience was taking their seats, people dressed in full hazmat attire “swept” the aisles with large brooms. Had it not been for the absurdity of the sight … and their tap shoes … the audience might have been alarmed. And thus began the debut performance of “All Good Things Must Come to an End.”

Ms. Dorrance and three other female performers started this production number with a traditional vaudeville routine that demonstrated their outstanding talent. Six distinctly different sets followed, each introduced with a placard on an easel.
Cane and Abel was an innovative acapella piece that relied on only footwork and percussive use of the canes to create the rhythm. Although it drew upon a very conventional prop, the method of employing the cane as a musical accompaniment was unique.

The ocean voyage by immigrants to this country was effectively portrayed in Myth of the American Dream. The military rhythms in this portion were familiar and the audience responded enthusiastically.

The program seemed to lull during The Myth of Narcissism, when the focus was on one dancer looking into the three mirrors held by other dancers. Likewise, The Ugly Duckling was not of the same caliber as the other sets. Ms. Dorrance performed exquisitely in oversized tap shoes, but that in and of itself was not enough for the routine to succeed.

Josette Wiggan-Freund captured the audience’s attention again with The Pedestal. She masterfully performed on a very small box, which amplified the sounds of her taps.

The last set, Fin, apparently referring to finale, brought the four performers into a humorous and energetic romp through the audience and out the open backstage door.

The second half of the show “Myelination,” was performed to an outstanding original jazz score written by the choreographer’s brother. Two hip-hop dancers and nine tappers filled the stage with explosive dance. The complexity of the steps was overwhelming and their technical execution dazzling. There was, however, only a minimal amount of connection with the audience.

The free Inside/Out performance that preceded Dorrance Dance was at full capacity for Calpulli Mexican Dance Company.  “Bode Mexicana,” which translates to Mexican Wedding, was a visual joy. The beautiful and varied costumes enhanced each number, as did the live music and singing. The 45-minute set, celebrating the traditions and diversity of the people of Mexico, left the audience wanting to see more.