Dorrance Dance with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely Bring Astounding Tap and Blues for Final White Bird Show


When: Wednesday – April 29, 2015, 7:30 pm
Where: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, SW Broadway & Main, Portland
Tickets: Starting at $26, available at and Portland’5 Box Office
1111 SW Broadway (formerly PCPA) NO added fees.
1-800-380-3516 (added fees apply).
Discounts available for groups/students and seniors.
Media Sponsor: The Oregonian

“Extraordinary dancers with a deep connection to the blues.” –The New York Times

White Bird is excited to present the Portland debut of Dorrance Dance in The Blues Project in collaboration with award-winning musician and composer Toshi Reagon and her famed blues band BIGLovely. Hailed by The New Yorker as “one of the most imaginative tap choreographers working today,” Michelle Dorrance will bring her company of nine exceptional tap dancers, including tap stars Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, in an exhilarating evening featuring a thrilling interplay of tap and live music, composed and sung by Toshi Reagon with her 5-piece band, BIGLovely. Recently performing at The Joyce Theater in New York City, The Blues Project received rave reviews from The New York Times, “Ms. Dorrance plays the crowd as well as her feet: She leaves you wanting more.”

The Blues Project is the inspiration of White Bird’s 15th Annual Outreach Project with Portland Public Schools, with the theme “The Blues in Tap and Music,” involving close to 3,000 students and teachers in grades 6-12. This will culminate in a late-morning free performance of excerpts from The Blues Project on April 29 at the Schnitzer for 2,700 students and teachers.

Dorrance Dance pushes the form of the tradition of tap, rhythmically, aesthetically and conceptually in this 60- minute performance. Influences of street, club and experimental dance forms blend with the traditional rhythms of tap dance – America’s oldest indigenous jazz dialect. In The Blues Project Michelle Dorrance and Toshi Reagon honor tap and blues music’s past while also cultivating growth in both genres. Every tap dancer displays their unique tap style in the midst of the exciting group choreography. The simple, but effective use of patterning adds percussion to the music and continues the flow of the performance.

The show opens with a traditional blues work song, where sound effects resembling hitting hammers are replaced by the ensemble of 9 dancers and their 18 feet. In groups of three, they carry the drum beat and have a three-way conversation, building the rhythms and adding on to the steps. The mood, scale and population of each number varies and flows in a unique blending of tap and modern dance. Every dancer gives feeling to each tap step, mirrored by the music. As one blues song transitions seamlessly to the next song, the tap dancers alter the mood from one number to the next while increasingly building momentum. There is no stop and start as one number flows into another with dancers sliding and weaving effortlessly.

Among the featured soloists are several of today’s best tap artists- Derick K. Grant, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards as well as Michelle Dorrance. Grant is most famous for his critically acclaimed show Imagine Tap! His solo is built on sliding steps in every direction- gracefully torqueing his powerful body into off-balance positions and recovering with bursts of invention. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, who was Michael Jackson’s tap coach for over 11 years, brilliantly performs distinct flurries of dense taps, constantly changing rhythm. Michelle Dorrance uses her slender figure and long limbs in stretching her movement across the length of the stage. In one particular section, in a beautiful duet with Toshi Reagon’s smooth blues voice, she walks in a circle, gradually building up rhythm and complexity.

Founder and Artistic Director Michelle Dorrance grew up studying at The Ballet School of Chapel Hill while performing with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble. Since moving to New York in 1997, she has performed with The New York and North American Touring Casts of STOMP, Savion Glover’s Ti Dii, Manhattan Tap, JazzTap Ensemble, Barbara Duffy & Co, Rumba Tap, Mable Lee’s Dancing Ladies, Dr. Harold Cromer’s original Opus One, Derick Grant’s Imagine Tap! and Jason Samuels Smith’s Chasing the Bird to rave reviews. She is a 2014 Alpert Award winner, 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, 2012 Princess Grace Award Winner, and 2011 Bessie Award Winner. She is currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center and has taught master classes throughout the world. She founded Dorrance Dance/New York in early 2011 with the mission to help audiences view tap dance, a beautiful, old jazz form, in a new and dynamically compelling context.

Toshi Reagon has been described as “a talented, versatile singer, composer, producer and musician with a profound ear for sonic Americana— from folk to funk, from blues to rock” by critic/blogger Eva Yaa Asantewaa of InfiniteBody. While her expansive career has landed her comfortably in residence at Carnegie Hall, the Paris Opera House, and Madison Square Garden, you can just as easily find Reagon appearing at a music festival, intimate venue, or local club. Her dance and theater collaborations include work with Urban Bush Women, Jane Comfort and Company, LAVA, and two operas with her mother Bernice Johnson Reagon and Robert Wilson. Reagon has been the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFTA) award for Music Composition and The Black Lily Music and Film Festival award for Outstanding Performance. She is a National Women’s History Month Honoree and is the 2010 recipient of OutMusic’s Heritage Award.

White Bird’s 2014-15 season is supported by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, The Collins Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Fred W. Fields Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation, Ronni Lacroute/ WillaKenzie Estate, Work for Art, Oregon Arts Commission, PGE Foundation, Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), The Autzen Foundation, Trust Management Services, The Jaffe Foundation, Starseed Foundation,The Boeing Company and Multnomah County Cultural Coalition.

White Bird’s 15th Annual Outreach Project with Portland Public Schools is made possible by a major grant from PGE Foundation, with additional support from Autzen Foundation, Trust Management Services, Starseed Foundation (Ken and Annie Edwards), Regional Arts & Culture Council, Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.

Dorrance Dance with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely Bring Astounding Tap and Blues for Final White Bird Show