Michelle Dorrance to Make Dances for American Ballet Theater

The tap dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance, who has won critical plaudits and a coveted MacArthur Foundation fellowship, will create three works for American Ballet Theater dancers, starting with a piece d’occasion for Ballet Theater’s spring gala on May 21.

The new works, announced on Tuesday by the company, are co-commissions with the Vail Dance Festival, where Ms. Dorrance will create the second piece, using dancers from Ballet Theater and other artists appearing at the festival. In October, a third piece by Ms. Dorrance will be part of Ballet Theater’s fall season at the David H. Koch Theater in New York.

“I have seen and watched Michelle’s work for a few years, and felt there is something in her that is larger than tap dancing,” Kevin McKenzie, the artistic director of Ballet Theater, said in a telephone interview. “I had actually already thought about asking her for a piece d’occasion for the gala. Then, during a trip to Vail last year, I saw her working with a large group, all different kinds of dancers, and saw her range. I felt she is an artist with a myriad of things to say, and this could offer a different portal.”

Ms. Dorrance, speaking from Lille, France, where she was on tour with her company, said that it was “crazy and overwhelming and wonderful” to have received the commissions, her first from a ballet company. (In 2015, she created a work for the Martha Graham Dance Company.)

“I am sure the questions everyone has are: Are these dancers going to tap? Will it be a normal ballet?” she said. “I am currently swimming in such an exciting range of possibilities.”

Ms. Dorrance said she studied ballet seriously with her mother, a dance teacher who had been a professional ballet dancer, until she was 13. “Unfortunately I have my father’s flat feet and not-so-flexible legs,” she said. “But I’ve never lost my admiration and respect for ballet.” She added that she did not yet know whether the three works would be related to one another.

“The gala piece will be a shorter work, but a foundation for what happens in Vail, which in turn could be a foundation for what happens in the fall,” she said. “But in Vail, the range of the dancers’s styles and the collaborative nature of the festival means that crazy things happen, and there are likely to be elements that might just stay in Vail.” Damian Woetzel, the artistic director of the Vail festival, said in a statement, that he was “ecstatic to be partnering on this project, which furthers our mission of promoting creative alchemy.”

Ms. Dorrance said she didn’t yet know whether she would use any tap in her pieces. “It’s safe to say that at some point they’ll be making a noise,” she said. “Point shoes, by the way, have an incredible sound.”The


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