International Contemporary Dance Festival

Dorrance Dance



Myelination (2017), choreographed by Michelle Dorrance, is a full-company work featuring original, live music by Donovan Dorrance and Gregory Richardson with vocalist Aaron Marcellus. This "exhilarating ensemble piece", in which each dancer is both an ensemble member and an improvisational soloist, challenges the performers to take risks and achieve new heights of technical and musical execution inside of the form of tap dance.

In addition, the rarely seen, Bessie-Award winning Three to One (2011), and the whimsical Jungle Blues (2012) complete this program, illustrating the great range that this company is known for.

“Rhythm keeps accumulating and multiplying in ‘Myelination’… it’s an exhilarating ensemble piece, including solos and duets, that switches gears from section to section. Most lovable is its inclusiveness: dancers of different races, of widely unalike temperaments and couture, coexist calmly here, often in exactly the same intricate meter but sometimes in overlapping sequences and facing separate directions. The live music — with vocals, piano, guitar, percussion and other instruments — is in a range of appealingly melodic jazz styles; its harmony with the dancing is never simple. ”

–      Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times

“[An] effervescent, twitchy piece… [Myelination] showcases a bit of everything: from graceful, gliding swoops to one-armed balances that pull hip-hop back to tap… Throughout, Ms. Dorrance, a brilliant conductor, pushes the boundaries of tap while exposing its true nature: that it is music. She juxtaposes quick duets and then, in fast gusts, pulls all of her instruments — the dancers — together in rows, bringing the stage to life with unison footwork. It’s a rush, and not a cheap one; Ms. Dorrance has choreographed a glittering closer that needs to have a second life after the festival. Please, someone, make that happen.”

–      Gia Kourlas, The New York Times

Program Information 

Myelination (2017)

Choreography:  Michelle Dorrance in collaboration with and featuring improvisation by the dancers with additional choreography by Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie & Matthew “Megawatt” West 

Original Music:  Prawn til Dante (Donovan Dorrance and Gregory Richardson) with vocals by Aaron Marcellus

Lighting Design: Kathy Kaufmann

Costume Design: Amy Page

Dance Captains:  Elizabeth Burke, Byron Tittle

Dancers: Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, Christopher Broughton, Elizabeth Burke, Warren Craft, Michelle Dorrance, Claudia Rahardjanoto, Leonardo Sandoval, Bryon Tittle, Matthew “Megawatt” West, Nicholas Van Young

Musicians: Donovan Dorrance (piano/clarinet), Aaron Marcellus (vocals/keys), Gregory Richardson (bass/clarinet), Nicholas Van Young (percussion), with Warren Craft (additional guitar)

Length: 45 Minutes

Myelination (2017) has been commissioned, in part, by Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California. Myelination (2017 and 2015) has also been commissioned by New York City Center for the Fall for Dance Festival with generous support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Music for Myelination (2015) commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation.

Myelination (2017) was also made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The 2017-2018 creation and presentation of an evening-length version of Myelination is also supported, in part, by a New Music USA Project Grant.


Jungle Blues (2012)

Choreography:  Michelle Dorrance with solo improvisation by Christopher Broughton

Music:  Branford Marsalis Quartet

Lighting Design: Kathy Kaufmann

Costume Design: Amy Page

Dancers: Full Company

Soloists: Claudia Rahardjanoto, Elizabeth Burke & Nicholas Van Young, Michelle Dorrance & Warren Craft, Byron Tittle, Christopher Broughton

Length: 9 Minutes

“The world premiere of “Jungle Blues” unleashed undulating torsos, rolling hips, and shimmying shoulders. Knees and fee swiveled side to side like well-oiled levers, and dancers slid across the floor and balanced on toes. Chris Broughton showed off acrobatic splits and flips.”

-       Karen Campbell, The Boston Globe

Three to One (2011)

Choreography:  Michelle Dorrance

Music:  Aphex Twin, Thom Yorke

Lighting Design: Kathy Kaufmann

Costume Design: Michelle Dorrance and Mishay Petronelli

Dancers: Michelle Dorrance, Byron Tittle, Matthew "Megawatt" West

Length: 10 Minutes

The creation of Three to One was made possible, in part, by the Danspace Project 2010-2011 Commissioning Initiative with support from the Jerome Foundation. Danspace’s Commissioning Initiative is a core component of the Choreographic Center Without Walls (CW²).

“An odd, seemingly impossible marriage of tap & modern dance that came off edgy, seductive, & smart.

-       Sid Smith, The Chicago Tribune

Press Questions about Myelination (2017) – Michelle Dorrance

Why did you decide to give MYELINATION a “second life”?

Myelination, in its original 15-minute form commissioned by New York City Center for its Fall for Dance Festival, only scratched the surface of several ideas that I was excited to explore at the time – little glimpses, of what could be a much longer work (two or three times it's length). Then when New York Times critic, Gia Kourlas, reviewed the work she described it as, "...a rush, and not a cheap one; Ms. Dorrance has choreographed a glittering closer that needs to have a second life after the festival. Please, someone, make that happen." Luckily, New York City Center along with a few other generous commissioning partners, DID!

What does the title of the piece mean?

The short scientific answer is: myelination is the process of a fatty sheath (myelin) forming around (and electrically insulating) the axons of certain nerve cells in the brain. Myelin was once overlooked as inconsequential matter (white matter) in the brain and was later discovered to be integral for the nervous system to function properly. Furthermore, the thicker the myelin sheath is that surrounds a given axon, the faster the electrical impulses in the brain travel.

I first learned about the existence of myelin from a fascinating book my father gave me called, "The Talent Code." In it, highly successful practice methods are discussed and in relationship to those, myelination is revealed as instrumental in learning, developing skills, refining behaviors and reactions, and also maintaining that learning. I learned that the kind of practice that ignites the building of myelin/myelination is a deeply acute and intense practice and patterned repetition as opposed to a long, drawn-out, less effective practice.

– My translation of all of this - to be exceptional at what you do, you must build as much myelin as possible as often as possible. –

It was my initial intention to first: challenge myself and the dancers to literally build new skills and achieve new and dynamic levels of technical execution during the actual rehearsal process (for the extended version of Myelination) and then to, second: develop ways to conceptually address and abstractly embody/communicate elements of brain function in the work itself. Further along in the process (through my experience in close personal relationships) I ended up learning quite a bit about psychological and cognitive dysfunction and it led me to research the brain's role versus society's role (family, environment, socialization) in relationship to that dysfunction. The same process of myelination that protects positive, exceptional skill development is also responsible for building sheaths that protect pathways of practiced destructive behavior.

How will be piece be “reborn and extended”? Are specific sections extended, or have you created entirely new sections? If the latter, how do the new sections fit within the whole?

Most significantly there are brand new sections and lots of new music. The tone of the piece has changed drastically for me in relationship to the original – this might not translate but my approach is very different emotionally. There are also revamped/altered/edited old sections, and many sections in the original work that were cut or entirely reimagined.

You work in an extremely collaborative manner - How was the music conceived and created?

My brother, Donovan, and Greg Richardson were incredibly patient with me – I gave them a few very, very specific assignments and a few incredibly vague assignments and they went away and wrote tons of absolutely beautiful music – some complete songs, some minute-long themes or grooves or ideas, and they brought them back to me for discussion/direction. I am blessed beyond belief to work with such open-minded, open-hearted musicians. I can't imagine how painstaking this process was/is for them. I am still asking to change the structure of certain compositions so that it suits building a compositional element in what I'm creating rhythmically, so that it builds more tension, or so that it helps to solve a theatrical transitional problem – I imagine this collaboration and constant re-adjusting will exist all the way up to the completion of the choreography. This may sound like a nightmare to some, but I think it is imperative to refining tap dance works – the music of our dance, the rhythms, the tones, the pocket, the clarity or dissonance or harmony inside the musical composition, is always the most important element to me.

What makes you excited about this piece?

I am most excited about the way the piece will challenge each dancer to take risks but also to achieve new heights of technical and musical execution inside of our form. My dream is that each dancer tries something they have never before tried on stage every night inside of their improvisation, and that each dancer and musician continues to become a better musician every single night in executing the composition.

How is this work different from your other pieces?

In this work, every single dancer is an ensemble member and an improvisational soloist with a much starker contrast between the two than ever before. The energy/emotion/personality of each dancer's character as a soloist is quite different from their intention in the ensemble and I loved developing the nuances in that contrast with each of them.

Performer Bios

 Michelle_Dorrance.jpg Michelle Dorrance (Artistic Director/Choreographer/Dancer) is a New York City based artist. Mentored by Gene Medler, she grew up performing with his North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble and was lucky to study under many of the last master hoofers. Career highlights include: STOMP, Derick Grant’s Imagine Tap, Jason Samuels Smith’s Charlie’s Angels/Chasing the Bird, Ayodele Casel’s Diary of a Tap Dancer, Mable Lee’s Dancing Ladies, and Darwin Deez. Company work: Savion Glover’s ti dii, Manhattan Tap, Barbara Duffy, JazzTap Ensemble, Rumba Tap, and solo work ranging from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to Damian Woetzel's Vail Dance Festival Projects, and a commission for the Martha Graham Dance Company. A 2018 Doris Duke Artist, 2017 Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow and 2015 MacArthur Fellow, Michelle is humbled to have been acknowledged/supported by United States Artists, The Joyce Theater, New York City Center, the Alpert Awards, Jacob’s Pillow, Princess Grace Foundation, The Field, American Tap Dance Foundation, and the Bessie Awards. Michelle holds a B. A. from New York University and is a Capezio Athlete.
 Ephrat.jpg Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie (Dancer), a 2016 Bessie Award Winner for Innovative Achievement in Dance, is a NYC-based Bgirl, dancer and choreographer. As artistic director of Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD), she has presented work at Jacob’s Pillow, FiraTarrega and New York Live Arts, among others. Ephrat has received numerous awards to support her work including a NDP Award from NEFA, a Mondo Cane! Commission from Dixon Place and an Extended Life Residency from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Ephrat has taught at Wesleyan University and is on faculty at Broadway Dance Center. For more information please visit www.ephratasheriedance.com
 Christopher_Broughton.jpg Christopher Broughton (Dancer), born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Chris began dancing at the age of 11 and has never looked back. Under the instruction of Paul and Arlene Kennedy at Universal Dance, he became a member of The Kennedy Tap Company, receiving the national NAACP ACT-SO Award twice. He now travels worldwide both as a soloist and with Jason Samuels Smith’s A.C.G.I., Rasta Thomas’ Tap Stars, and Dorrance Dance. Performances include New York City Center’s Cotton Club Parade; Juba! Master’s of Tap & Percussive Dance at the Kennedy Center; and Broadway’s Tony & Astaire award-winning production After Midnight.
 Elizabeth_Burke.jpg Elizabeth Burke (Rehearsal Director/Dancer) is a Chapel Hill, North Carolina native who spent 11 years under the direction of her mentor, Gene Medler, in the acclaimed North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble. Burke has been with Dorrance Dance since its inception in 2010. She pursues her own choreographic work, teaches and performs as a soloist on occasion. She is an alumna of the School at Jacob's Pillow and Marymount Manhattan College (BA Political Science, BA Communication Arts, magna cum laude).
 Warren_Craft.jpg Warren Craft (Dancer) is a New York City tap dancer who has trained in ballet with both the American Ballet Theatre and the School of American Ballet. He has been a member of Brenda Bufalino’s New American Tap Dance Orchestra, Max Pollak’s RumbaTap, and Dorrance Dance. He moves with "bizarre physicality," and "unconventional eloquence." (The New York Times).
 Donovan_Dorrance.jpg Donovan Dorrance (Music Director/Composer/Musician) hails from Chapel Hill, NC where he studied piano, guitar, drums, and voice before attending The University of North Carolina for a B.A. in Philosophy. In 2014, Donovan moved to Brooklyn to assist his sister’s company and pursue his passion for music. In addition to composing music with Gregory Richardson for Dorrance Dance, Donovan composes music for film and theatre, collaborating with students from NYU and Columbia
 Aaron_Marcellus.jpg Aaron Marcellus (Co-Composer/Musician), singer, vocal coach, writer, musician, dancer, and actor from Atlanta started in Gospel music and has performed around the world. He has recorded albums and was voted top 24 on American Idol in 2011. After a world tour, Aaron was featured in a Chapstick commercial, NBC’s “Next Caller” and was a cast member of STOMP. Marcellus also hosts a Burlesque show at Duane Park. Most importantly, he founded both Surrender To Love, LLC, a foundation that supports arts programs and seeks to feed the hungry and Adventure Voice, a training program offering vocal classes for groups and individuals.
 Claudia_Rahardjanoto.jpg Claudia Rahardjanoto (Dancer), born and raised in Berlin, Germany, started dancing professionally at the age of nine at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Named one of “25 To Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2010 and featured on the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine in 2011, Claudia has danced with and learned from Andreas Dänel, Sven Göttlicher, Dianne Walker, Ted Levy, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Michelle Dorrance, Derick K. Grant, Brenda Bufalino, Roxane Butterfly, Andrew Nemr, Barbara Duffy, Jane Goldberg, Jared Grimes, Max Pollak, Michael Minery, the late Harold ‘Stumpy’ Cromer, and the legendary Mable Lee, amongst others. She is grateful to be able to share her passion and love for tap dance through her performances and teaching worldwide.
 Gregory_Richardson.jpg Gregory Richardson (Composer/Musician) is a composer, performer, and multi-instrumentalist and has been a member of Dorrance Dance since 2011. He learned rhythm and blues at an early age from a family of musicians where everyone could play at least a little piano and everyone was expected to sing. The Tucson native studied at Bard College and has been working as a professional musician in New York City for nearly two decades. Richardson is known for his winning combination of natural talent, hard work, and dedication and is fortunate to have traveled the world several times over with various ensembles. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, where he has been a part of countless collaborations.
 Leonardo_Sandoval.jpg Leonardo Sandoval (Dancer), Brazilian tap dancer, has become known in the tap world and beyond for his musicality, and for adding his own Brazilian flavor to tap. An early member of Dorrance Dance, he is also in demand as a choreographer, solo dancer, and jazz musician. A true dancer-musician, Leo has had his work, including collaborations with composer Gregory Richardson, presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the National Folk Festival.
 Byron_Tittle.jpg Byron Tittle (Dancer) is a multi-faceted dancer based in New York where he studied extensively at Broadway Dance Center, The American Tap Dance Foundation, and then later toured the country with The Pulse on Tour. After finding commercial success, dancing for the likes of Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj, and Laurie Ann Gibson, Byron is focused on pushing the boundaries in the concert dance world. He has been touring with Dorrance Dance since 2014 and continues to approach each show with vigor and excitement. His “elegant and polished lines” help captivate audiences worldwide as he feels most at home with the company. (The Brooklyn Rail).
 Matthew_Megawatt.jpg Matthew “Megawatt” West (Dancer) started dancing at 16 on his church’s dance team in Queens, New York, and with the company On Point Choreography, with whom he learned challenging choreography and mastered different styles within hip hop dance. He has competed in several Bboy competitions, and strives to impart knowledge and wisdom on the next generation of dancers: he has taught at Coney Island’s Shining Angels Studio and at after school programs in Queens. Mega is an avid listener of House music and a dedicated student of House dance, training with the NYC crew MAWU, Conrad Rochester, and James "Cricket" Colter.
 NicholasVanYoung.jpg Nicholas Van Young (Associate Artistic Director/Dancer/Musician) is a dancer, musician, choreographer, and a 2014 Bessie Award recipient. He began his professional career at age 16 under Acia Gray and Deidre Strand with Tapestry Dance Company in Austin, TX, eventually rising to principal dancer and resident choreographer. Since moving to New York, he has performed with Manhattan Tap, RumbaTap, Dorrance Dance, “Beat the Donkey,” has toured as a drummer for Darwin Deez, and spent almost a decade performing with STOMP, where he performed the lead role and acted as rehearsal director. Nicholas tours both nationally and internationally teaching and performing at various Tap Festivals, and founded Sound Movement dance company and IFTRA, Institute for The Rhythmic Arts. He is thrilled to have found a home with Dorrance Dance, co-creating and developing ETM: Double Down, and the Guggenheim Rotunda Project, both collaborative efforts with Michelle Dorrance.