THE BLUES PROJECT
November 17, 2016
THE BLUES PROJECT premiered in 2015 to wide acclaim for Michelle Dorrance's choreography and Toshi Regan's splendid musical collaboration. Now it's a popular touring vehicle and re-sets a standard for tap dancers as jazz musicians. This fall, The Blues Project returned to the Joyce Theater and although the outline remained set, the sections tightened up. One complaint, it ended too soon, meaning, it called for an "encore" tag. Below is the original review from the 2015 program.
By gathering together an undeniably winning combination of artists, Michelle Dorrance wows audiences in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.” After befriending her life-long musical hero on Facebook, Dorrance sent Toshi Regan a “happy birthday” tap dance shout-out that sealed their future collaboration. Well, more or less….. Live roots music bent through the distinctive warmth and intelligence of Toshi Regan shapes the tap and sound journey from Southern plantations to contemporary times.
The quintet called BIGLovely sit on an elevated strip behind the performers who execute dances found at indoor and outdoor events. What’s immediately noticeable is the level of choreography. The strong sense of group construction and musically motivated, energetic patterns. Of course, the solos generally originate with the performer, expanding on that individual’s movement personality.
The music’s deeply funky bass informs the earthy movements that dig feet into the earth while allowing the torso mobility. It’s a fusion of tribal connections and the passage of time broken into different songs that morph from the rhythms of plantation hollers, to church music, blues, jazz and oh, so much more. Shaped into an hour, the multi-faceted dancers spring into action slipping into outfits that reference the 1940’s or 1950’s. Each section tells its own story of defiance or love, sharing and competition.
At one point, dancers couple-up and break into a frisky Lindy Hop. Dorrance in particular excels in this style due to her slinky, loose-limbed style and facial expressions that resemble a female jazz bandstand singer.
The three main dance creators execute individual solos. Different in weight and approach, Dorrance projects a jazzy swing style, knees easily bending, feet feathering out in mid air and taps that skitter lightly but with a variety of color. Grant joins a witty demeanor to a heavier, funkier format, flipping up on his knees, gamely clicking his air born legs. And finally, Sumbry-Edwards carves out a highly individual, be bop style, leading the musicians into abstract and surprising improvisations.
In the program notes, Dorrance notes that she collaborated on the choreography with the impressive Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Derick K. Grant along with the company members. However, the idea originated in the Dorrance’s desire to speak tap in larger dance circles. And she did.
The choreographic integrity keeps the steps in exchange, and the time is right Overall, the piece draws a loose thread from plantatian to now.
An undeniably winning concept matched Michelle Dorrance and Toshi Regan in a reprieve of “The Blues Project.”
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis