Michelle Dorrance Is (Officially) a Genius

September 28, 2015

MacArthur Foundation awards are called “genius” grants for a reason. Every year, the organization gives its prestigious fellowships—$625,000 each, these days—to a small group of exceptionally creative people. Since 1981, that list has included just 20 dancers and/or choreographers—trailblazers you’ll probably recognize by their first names alone. (Merce. Trisha. Twyla.)

Now there’s a new dance addition to the genius club. The MacArthur Foundation just announced its 2015 fellows, and innovative tap dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance is holding it down for the dance community. It’s a richly deserved honor—and the tap-happiest news this side of Gaby Diaz’s “So You Think You Can Dance” win.*

Photo Matthew Murphy/Kenn Tam

What makes Dorrance an especially wonderful choice? She’s not only a fantastic hoofer, but also a tap choreography pioneer, creating powerful evening-length works that draw on the history of tap even as they push the form to a new, exciting place. If you haven’t seen her company, Dorrance Dance/New York, you need to remedy that ASAP.

(There are a few other familiar names on the MacArthur list this year, too, including Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda and the brilliant puppeteer Basil Twist, who frequently collaborates with dancers and choreographers.)

The best person to explain Dorrance’s process is Dorrance herself. She shares her words of wisdom—and clips from some of her works—in this great MacArthur Foundation video. Congratulations, Michelle!

*What a year for #TeamTap, right?? We saw one tapper win the Cover Model Search, another dominate on “SYT” and now we’ve got Dorrance’s MacArthur triumph. Not too shabby!