Michelle Dorrance-Curated Tap Fest and NW Dance Project at Jacob’s Pillow

Michelle Dorrance (photo Christopher Duggan)

(BECKET, Mass.) – TIRELESS: A Tap Dance Experience, curated by MacArthur “Genius” and tap dancer/choreographer extraordinaire Michelle Dorrance, and Portland, Ore.-based NW Dance Project are on tap at Jacob’s Pillow from Wednesday, June 28 to Sunday, July 2.

For the Pillow-exclusive engagement, TIRELESS: A Tap Dance Experience, Michelle Dorrance has brought together outstanding tap artists from around the world for this unique collaboration, including Jumaane Taylor and M.A.D.D. Rhythms of Chicago, siblings Joseph and Josette Wiggan of Los Angeles, Joe Orrach of San Francisco, and Reona and Takashi Seo of Japan. The mini-festival of tap takes place in the Ted Shawn Theatre.

“The artists featured in this show represent what I find to be the most powerful and essential elements of our art form,” says Dorrance. “They embody the beautiful paradox of being simultaneously innovative and traditional. Jumaane Taylor, Joseph and Josette Wiggan, Joe Orrach, and Reona Seo are all singular dancer/ choreographer/ composers and some of the world’s most dynamic improvisational dancers. They infuse their work with experimental yet masterful technical approaches, invigorating rhythmic phrasing, and compelling emotional resonance. I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of bringing the magic of these artists to the magic of Jacob’s Pillow.”


NW Dance Project (photo Blaine Truitt)

In a rare East Coast performance, contemporary dance company NW Dance Project presents a program of accomplished and rising choreographic talent from the U.S. and abroad, with works by Felix Landerer, choreographer in residence for Scapino Ballet in the Netherlands; Ji?í Pokorný, former dancer for Nederlands Dans Theater; Ihsan Rustem, the 2011 Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest winner; and Sarah Slipper, current NW Dance Project artistic director.

Known for its cutting-edge contemporary work, NW Dance Project makes its Jacob’s Pillow debut, June 28-July 2 in the Doris Duke Theatre. Based in Portland, Oregon and led by former Royal Winnipeg Ballet principal dancer Sarah Slipper, the company is composed of a cast of classically trained, versatile contemporary dancers.


TIRELESS: A Tap Dance Experience coincides with the All Styles Dance Battle in the Doris Duke Theatre, July 2, also hosted by Michelle Dorrance, and bringing together Festival artists, participants of the Tap Program of The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and New England-based street artists.

In TIRELESS, accomplished Japanese tap dancer Reona Seo and husband and composer/double bassist Takashi Seo will present AUN (“in sync”), an improvised, rapid-fire duet. Both artists have performed in festivals and on stages all over the world, but very rarely in the U.S.; Reona Seo is an alumna of the Tap Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow.

Jumaane Taylor (photo courtesy Jumaane Taylor)

Jumaane Taylor, a Chicago native turned internationally acclaimed improvisational soloist made his professional debut with M.A.D.D Rhythms, where he now serves as assistant director. Taylor and the M.A.D.D. Rhythms ensemble will perform an excerpt from Supreme Love, a 50th anniversary celebration of jazz legend John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme. Laura Molzahn of the Chicago Tribune says “Taylor’s huge dynamic range runs from feather-light to crushing weight; visually, he’s a subtle delight, his swaying torso accenting the rhythms of feet tapping almost imperceptibly.”

Siblings Joseph Wiggan and Josette Wiggan-Freund contribute the world premiere of Harmony: Tap in Motion, with music composed by Duke Ellington and Puerto Rican trombonist Juan Tizol. The two spent seven years dancing with Los Angeles-based Kennedy Tap Company and now teach, perform, and collaborate individually and as a duo. They have performed across the U.S., Finland, Cuba, Sweden, Germany, Guatemala, Russia, Japan, Spain, Israel, and beyond.

Joseph Wiggan has received a Princess Grace Award for outstanding artistic achievement, has toured in numerous productions including Riverdance, the tap dance musical Imagine Tap!, and two Cirque du Soleil shows, and made his Broadway debut in George C. Wolfe’s Shuffle Along.

Josette Wiggan-Freund has performed in the first national tour of 42nd Street, the Rockette Christmas Spectacular, the Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, and the film Idlewild; Gia Kourlas of the New York Times described a 2008 performance thusly: “she breezed across the stage, zipping through especially florid footwork with a nod to Bob Fosse. [She]… ushered in a new kind of femininity: saucy yet strong and, in every respect, modern.”

Actor, dancer, singer, and solo artist Joe Orrach contributes In My Corner, a narrative performance combining story, song, dance, boxing, jump rope, and pure heart. Orrach started out as a street dancer, has danced with the likes of Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, Savion Glover, and the Nicholas Brothers, and has acted and danced in films including Everyone Says I Love You, directed by Woody Allen. Rose Desena of the Los Angeles Post calls Orrach’s In My Corner “an electrifying bundle of pure, smoking energy…one of the most creative productions I have seen this year.”

TIRELESS is curated by Michelle Dorrance, founder and artistic director of Dorrance Dance. A 2015 MacArthur Fellow, 2014 Alpert Award Winner, and 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award Winner, Dorrance performs, teaches, and choreographs throughout the world.

Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards will also direct the 2017 Tap Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow, June 26-July 9. TIRELESS performers Joseph Wiggan and Jumaane Taylor will serve as Faculty for the program, along with Derick K. Grant, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, Sam Weber, and musician Carmen Staaf, among others. Students of the Tap Program will perform as part of the Inside/Out Series July 1 and 8. Dorrance and Sumbry-Edwards will participate in a free PillowTalk Friday, June 20 and Sam Weber will teach a Master Class, open to the public, on Sunday, July 2.


Jacob’s Pillow Connections

Since 1978, Jacob’s Pillow has played an active role in showcasing and promoting the art of tap dance. Numerous revered tap artists have graced Festival stages over the past 40 years including Savion Glover, Leon Collins, Gregory Hines, Dianne “Lady Di” Walker, Cartier Williams, Jimmy Slyde, Jason Samuels Smith, and many others. Tap dance has been taught in The School at Jacob’s Pillow by many tap masters including Walker, Smith, Derick K. Grant, Harold Cromer, Nicholas Young, Tasha Lawson, and others.

Michelle Dorrance and Dorrance Dance debuted at Jacob’s Pillow in 2011 as part of the Inside/Out Performance Series. Dorrance received the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award in 2013 and Dorrance Dance has been presented in the Doris Duke and Ted Shawn Theatres for four seasons straight, 2013-2016. The company has participated in numerous Creative Development Residencies to create new work, including ETM: The Initial Approach and ETM: Double Down.

The first Tap Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow was directed by Dianne Walker in 2010. Michelle Dorrance directed the Tap Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow in 2014 and will direct the 2017 program with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. TIRELESS performers Reona Seo and Ian Berg are alumni of The School at Jacob’s Pillow’s Tap Program.



The NW Dance Project program includes works by a range of accomplished choreographers and rising talents: Post-Traumatic-Monster by Felix Landerer, choreographer in residence for Scapino Ballet in the Netherlands; At Some Hour You Return by former Nederlands Dans Theater dancer Ji?í Pokorný; Le Fil Rouge by 2011 Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest winner and NW Dance Project resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem; and MemoryHouse by artistic director Sarah Slipper.

Post-Traumatic-Monster, by German choreographer Felix Landerer, deals with the dark side of relationships. This duet is full of sharp, compact choreography, with a score by composer Christof Littman. Landerer has recently choreographed for Luzerner Theater in Switzerland, Norrdans in Sweden, and Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, where he was appointed choreographer-in-residence in 2013.

The 2014 work At Some Hour You Return is choreographed by former Nederlands Dans Theatre and Kidd Pivot dancer Ji?í Pokorný. Kaitie Todd of Williamette Week commented, “The six dancers often move together in a billowing, bobbing mass before suddenly breaking off into brief solos or duos—an aggressive, backwards crab walk here, a beautifully controlled, almost anti-gravity-looking lift there.” Pokorný was born in Prague, Czech Republic and studied at the Prague National Dance Conservatory before joining Nederlands Dans Theater 2 and then NDT 1; he joined Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot in 2010.

MemoryHouse is a passionate, dramatic duet by Sarah Slipper, danced to music by British composer and musician Max Richter and Yann Tiersen, known for his work on film scores including Amélie. The movements in the final minutes of MemoryHouse are decided by the dancers onstage. The female dancer’s eyes are shut and she is vulnerable to her partner; as the duet comes to a close, she chooses one of multiple possible endings suggested by the choreographer.

Le Fil Rouge closes the program with a humorous, contemporary romp choreographed by NW Dance Project resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, with a soundtrack of songs by Yma Sumac, Doris Day, Edith Piaf, La Lupe, and others. Bob Hicks of Oregon ArtsWatch wrote, “Le Fil Rouge, or ‘The Red Thread,’ is an evocation of the smart pop music and fizzy Hollywood dance styles of the 1950s and ’60s, a light and ebullient tip of the contemporary hat to the mating game in its many woozy variations: Like Twyla Tharp and a few others before him, Rustem’s not afraid to mine the energy and inventiveness and nostalgic attractions of popular culture.”

Rustem, born in London, began his professional career with Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures; and went on to perform in Germany with Ballet Theater Munich; Introdans in the Netherlands; and in Switzerland as a founding member of both the Stadt Theater Bern Ballett and the Tanz Luzerner Theater.


About NW Dance Project

NW Dance Project was founded in Portland in 2004 by dancer, mentor, and choreographer Sarah Slipper. NW Dance Project is dedicated to the creation and performance of innovative, new contemporary dance works from established and emerging dance makers. The company has fostered the creation and Portland premiere of over 190 original contemporary dance works to date. The company’s dedication to providing dancers and dancemakers the resources and creative room needed to realize new works led Dance International Magazine to proclaim that they are “changing the way dance is created” and that NW Dance Project has become “a laboratory, factory and repository for risk-taking new works from the next generation of choreographers from Europe and North America.”

Sarah Slipper was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, and received her professional training at the Royal Ballet School in London, England and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. In 1980, she made her professional debut with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as a corps de ballet member, and became one of the company’s leading ballerinas. After Slipper left the stage, she studied theatre at the University of Winnipeg and in Oxford, England. She has served as ballet mistress of Alberta Ballet and Oregon Ballet Theatre.

An award-winning independent choreographer, Slipper has created work for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Nashville Ballet, Washington Ballet, Ballet Jorgen, Louisville Ballet, Fugate/Bahiri BalletNY, Alberta Ballet, and NW Dance Project, among others. She was awarded the Grand Prize for Choreography at the International Choreographic Competition Saint Sauveur 2000 for her ballet Shattered Night, which was created on the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She has created over 40 ballets to date and is currently working on several new creations.



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