Hot ticket: Innovative tap company Dorrance Dance comes to Berkeley

Cal Performances/Dorrance Dance

Since its world premiere in 2013, Dorrance Dance’s dazzling, one-hour production, SOUNDspace, has most often been called “movement as music.” The performance is a symphony of sound and rhythm, courtesy of ten fingers and 20 astounding human feet.

The New York-based tap company, joined by bassist Gregory Dawson, was founded in 2011 by 2015 MacArthur Fellow Michelle Dorrance. Since that time, award-winning productions, extensive education and community outreach programs, cross-cultural projects, and international tours have earned the company a large following and widespread acclaim.

Which means tickets for the four shows presented by Cal Performance at Berkeley’s Zellerbach Playhouse from Mar. 13 – 15 are moving swiftly. Public Relations Manager Louisa Spier said one show was added to the original schedule and additional tickets will continue to be released in small quantities during the next week. Walk-up tickets may be available at the door, depending on cancellations and no-shows.

The furor is caused by more than the astounding athleticism and finesse demonstrated by the ten dancers in SOUNDspace. Beyond meticulous technique — especially vivid in one section that dramatically spotlights only the lower legs of a row of dancers that release a torrent of percussion –there are Dorrance’s minimum-is-maximum stage patterns and unending variations. A small bundle of moves often iterates into exhilarating loops, reversals, riffs, and tonal variations as the weight shifts from forefoot to heel or a solo becomes a duet, trio or whole ensemble expansion. Circles and diagonals carve through the space to create intriguing paths that draw the eye to chase or follow the dancers through Kathy Kaufmann’s rich, sculptural lighting.

With a company mission to share the legacy of tap dance, a uniquely American art form, SOUNDspace is not only movement as music, it is history told in movement. The inspiration for the work reaches back to the late 1800s, when dancers wore leather shoes and had wood taps pre-dating today’s aluminum taps. The slide form of tap that had dancers magically gliding sideways was then called “Buck Dancing” or “Buck and Wing.” One scene reaches even further back to retell a part of the 16th century Harlequin and Pantalone story — told in tap by a wild jester and his vicious master.

Toggling into contemporary times, the dancers dig deep into their heels to create booming bass sounds and timbres that mirror that of Reynold’s dynamic score and the original Body Percussion score by Nicholas Van Young. Ensemble sections and solo improvisations bridge the gap between centuries of tap to include movement drawing from American modern dance, Broadway productions, and street dance such as hip hop, turfing, vogueing and more.

With tickets flying faster than the dancers’ feet, our best advice is to call soon to reserve tickets. Or line up next weekend and hope a no-show is a good luck opportunity to see one of tap’s finest companies.

Check availability and get tickets here.

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