(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reel Thoughts Interview: From Tap Dance Kid to Stomp Star

Stomp is hard on its cast, but current co-star Michelle Dorrance wouldn’t have it any other way. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native began tap dancing at the age of four and hasn’t stopped since. She has performed internationally and is a sought-after instructor who has worked with legends like Savion Glover before joining the current tour of Stomp. I spoke to her about the show, and how she likes performing with trashcans, push brooms and giant tires.

NC: How did your love of dance develop?
MD: Actually, my mother was a professional ballet dancer and started a school once she retired, so I had free dance lessons growing up, but I was terrible at ballet. I didn’t inherit that flexibility, or really, the feet.

I was lucky to have a really great tap teacher who was interested in the community of tap dancers and the history of it, rather than just competitive dance, which is kind of rampant across the country. We really got a culture and an art form, rather than just a dance practice from him, so that’s why I took it seriously from the beginning, because of the way he loved it too.

Because of the mentors I had, it was a pretty easy love to have. We say that because my mom danced and my dad played soccer and also played the drums, that it sort of made sense.

NC: How did you join Stomp and how does performing in Stomp compare to your tap experience?
MD: You know what? It was an incredible challenge. Some things came naturally, like there’s a piece in the show with no props at all. We call it “Hands and Feet” because you just use your hands, your feet and your body, and that’s the piece that came the most naturally. It’s intense because of the kind of sound and music that can be made just from your body, and I thought that kind of thing was really exciting.

I auditioned for the show just like your average Joe, but I did have a friend in it that I grew up tap dancing with — Nicholas Young. He’s actually the lead in the show. He plays the role of Sarge, which is the guy who communicates with the audience throughout the show. He’s a brilliant percussionist on top of a really great tap dancer, and I went, “Oh, Nick, that show is awesome, it’s perfect for you.” I saw him in it about a half dozen times, but never really gave it too much thought until the audition came around. Then I was like, “Who doesn’t want to be in this show — it’s a blast!”

She went on to describe entire new numbers that have been added to Stomp that include new props, including tractor tire inner tubes.

“Wait until you see them,” she said. “Some audiences go crazy over them. And the other number ends up being this juggling number with paint cans. You’re playing and you’re throwing, and the timing on that … it’s actually a very difficult piece, both in rehearsal and in the show. Then a lot of the old numbers have been completely revamped, so it’s a lot of fun for us to have new music and new props to work with.”

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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