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Impressions of: Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young in Works & Process Rotunda Project at the Guggenheim Museum

Impressions of: Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young in Works & Process Rotunda Project at the Guggenheim Museum
Deirdre Towers/Follow @spiffmoves on Twitter

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @spiffmoves on Twitter
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on February 22, 2017
Photo by Matthew Murphy

February 16, 2017 at 6:30pm


Perhaps The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Works & Process committee did not anticipate catapulting already lauded artists into a new dimension when they commissioned tap dancers Michelle Dorrance and Nicholas Van Young to create a work to be performed in the iconic Guggenheim rotunda. Most probably, though, they are ecstatic with the artists' unprecedented ability to play the rotunda like a Stradivarius

A group of tap dancers tap on wooden boards as audience members peer down  to watch from above on the Guggenheim's various levels
Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young in Works & Process Rotunda Project at the Guggenheim Museum
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Dorrance & Van Young discovered immediately that tapping the floor of the rotunda created a racket. This acoustic problem spurred them to explore their options. Without a drop of pretension, they presented percussion and resonance as kaleidoscopic theatre, beginning with a backward flip. In thirty minutes, a company of twelve or so, dressed alternately in black and white, zipped in and out of the main space and the ramps to offer solos, duets, and ensemble choreographies, beating wooden sticks against the floor, each other, the railings, and twisting the dancers so that they resembled martial artists or folk dancers. 
 
Striking chimes and pots floating in the rotunda pool mellowed the sound, as did the celestial singers cooing from the top level. Wooden boxes, assembled to offer 4-6 pitches, or played singly, sandboxes for dancers to scrap and slide within, showed the ingenuity of the artists. Van Young conducted the audience through a hand-clapping composition performed in the round. The occasional red sneaker accented the design and complemented the red Calder mobile hanging close to the main floor. The lighting design cast long shadows of the dancers who kept the performance flying.
 
Michelle Dorrance sits on a bass drum while her ensemble tap and make rhythms with their bodies. No two performers execute the same move.
Michelle Dorrance with Nicholas Van Young in Works & Process Rotunda Project at the Guggenheim Museum
Photo by Matthew Murphy
Dorrance offered a short tap solo in the middle, tilting her head to the ceiling for the bow, the first time we saw a face. Towards the end of the performance, the entire company tapped on the boxes and wood surfaces. Having already been treated to a feast of surprisingly sharp and clear sounds, hearing 24 feet was excruciating, even for New Yorkers who have to endure sirens all day, every day.
 
What an inspiring treat! We must thank Mertz-Gilmore Foundation and Caroline M. Sharp for their leadership support for Works & Process Rotunda Projects, and to Stuart H. Coleman and Meryl Rosofsky for underwriting the Michelle Dorrance Rotunda Project.

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