Tap dancer Michelle Dorrance (literally) plays the Guggenheim


Tap dancer Michelle Dorrance (literally) plays the Guggenheim

(Courtesy Matthew Murphy)

The Guggenheim Museum was used like a beatbox on February 16 by MacArthur “Genius” and tap dancer Michelle Dorrance, in collaboration with Nicholas Van Young, in a performance in the rotunda as part of the museum’s Works & Process series.

This is the first in a long-running series to take place at the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed rotunda. With the audience snaked up the ramp, dancers performed on the floor as well as in strategically placed spots on the ramp. The dancers used boxes, tuned tubes, balls (which were floating in the fountain), hands, and of course their feet, to make percussive sounds. Like an updated Busby Berkeley production number where patterns are seen from above, the dancers had to find creative workarounds to the sounds made by their usual tap dancing—the noise was just too much and too muddled for the acoustics of the hall.

The evening started with dancers pushing and playing with wooden boxes in a rhythmic and playful way. Other segments included tapping plastic tubes of different lengths (and therefore different pitches) on the walls of the ramp, pairs of dancers rapping smaller sticks together as they parried, silent conductor Van Young leading the audience in a round of controlled clapping, and performers drumming on different sized balls in the fountain. A double-bass and chimes made appearances, too.

The dancers played with perspective as well. Their curtain call bows at the end of the performance had them bend forward from a horizontal position, i.e. laying down on the floor and bending forward to a seated position. They really did play the building. A video of the performance can be found here. Go the Guggenheim website for more on the Works & Process series.