Courtesy of Maurice Harris

Today at 5 p.m., a Connecticut Dance Alliance event will encourage viewers to put work aside and get up and dance in front of their screens.

This event, hosted by the Yale Schwarzman Center, or YSC, is the second in the Connecticut Dance Alliance’s ongoing CT Dance Now! series. The one-hour session will feature a dance class with Dormeshia, YSC’s inaugural artist-in-residence in dance. It will include an introduction to the history of women in tap dance and a Q&A session led by YSC project coordinator Gabrielle Niederhoffer ’23. The community class is open and accessible to all, regardless of prior dance experience.

“I’ve always looked up to Dormeshia — she has really brought female tap dancers into the spotlight,” Niederhoffer said. “In the tap community, everyone knows Dormeshia. She’s so revered and honored. And now I think the general public is starting to fully recognize her, and that’s been so exciting for tap dancers.”

Prior to its physical opening in 2021, the YSC hopes to engage the Yale and New Haven community via digital programming. This event is the first collaboration between the YSC and the Connecticut Dance Alliance. The Alliance’s CT Dance Now! series arose from discussions among university organizers about how artists can continue to work during a pandemic.

As the first artist-in-residence in dance, Dormeshia will work with the YSC throughout the year. Newman said the YSC intends to engage with artists-in-residence over long periods of time and work on community engagement, academic pursuits and performances.

Jennifer Newman, the associate artistic director of the YSC, said Dormeshia will be sharing this history both orally and physically. “We’ll be learning about her relationship with the work and women in it,” Newman said.

Dormeshia explained that female tap dancers, particularly Black female tap dancers, were often overlooked in the discipline. During the event, archival footage that highlights the stories of these dancers will be shown. Dormeshia said that these videos are some of her favorite clips of female tap dancers who have inspired her.

Dormeshia is a dancer and choreographer who has performed on Broadway, in films and in tap companies. She has received two Bessie Awards, a Princess Grace Statue Award and an Astaire Award.

This event is an example of adapting dance to virtual mediums. Niederhoffer, who is a dancer, noted that she has seen the dance community expand its creativity over virtual platforms.

“I’ve seen so much innovation with dance on film and seeing how the camera can become a choreographer,” Niederhoffer said. “There’s nothing that can replace being in a studio with other dancers and feeling their energy and presence, but these virtual platforms have created so much connection.”

Dormeshia noted that during the pandemic, many dancers have taken the opportunity to improve their skills. Several dancers are doing better in this environment, she said, because the pandemic-induced social isolation allows dancers to “self-meditate.”

Newman expressed that working with artists virtually has been a silver lining for her.

“It’s been such a rough time for artists every year — specifically for dancers, it’s a physical practice,” Newman said. “It’s been an incredible gift for me to be able to engage with someone and to offer an opportunity, even if online, and to work, to think and to participate in their craft.”

The event can be accessed at https://www.thequicklive.com

Marisol Carty | marisol.carty@yale.edu