To Tap Like This Is To Feel Joy

Nasher Museum performance showcases the sounds of tap dancing, and the art it can create

Tap dancing is very much about the moves and the sounds.  Three hundred people, including several dozen American Dance Festival students, enjoyed that insight during a performance Wednesday afternoon at the Nasher Museum of Art.

MacArthur Fellow and Chapel Hill native Michelle Dorrance and Byron Tittle of Dorrance Dance tap company performed in collaboration with New York City-based visual artist John Felix Arnold, who grew up in Durham, as part of his Echoes series.

Arnold created a 6-by-8 foot “stage” out of wood reclaimed from the Triangle and New York, upon which Dorrance and Tittle emphasized the role of movement language and sound in tap dance. During a rehearsal Tuesday afternoon, the two dancers were found getting familiar with the piece, exploring the different sounds resonating from its diverse array of wood, while feeling out the materials in relation to their movements.

During the 40-minute performance on Wednesday, which included long solos from both dancers, they transformed the materials into a new art piece, a type of experimental drawing, which recorded the marks of every tap, skid and slide.

“Echoes: From Here” was commissioned by Duke Arts and co-presented by American Dance Festival and the Nasher Museum with support from Cassilhaus.

Video by Bill Snead