Dormeshia’s mid-career rise continues. On Tuesday, the performer and choreographer was named the winner of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award 2021, an honor that comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $ 25,000. For her “extraordinary vision and achievement” she will be celebrated on June 12th at a virtual gala.
“Dormeshia is quite simply one of the greatest tap dancers of our time,” said Pamela Tatge, the artistic and executive director of Jacob’s Pillow, in a statement. “She is a radiant person, whose elegance, flair and generosity lead us to new heights of the rooster shape.”
“I feel like a win for me is a win for tap dancing,” Dormeshia said via email. The dancers who paved the way for her – many of whom didn’t get the recognition she deserved – were in the foreground when she got the news of the award, she added. “Without your incredible talent and perseverance, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
The connection between Dormeshia and Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Massachusetts is deep. She first performed at the Dance Center Summer Festival in 1993 at the age of 17 as part of the Los Angeles Company Jazz Tap Ensemble. Two decades later she returned – as a dancer and choreographer – for “The Blues Project” with the Dorrance Dance company. Her most recent appearance on the Pillow was a collaboration with Jason Samuels Smith and Derick K. Grant, “And Still You Must Swing” in 2016.
Dormeshia’s long career as a dancer and performer – she began dancing professionally as a child – also included several Broadway stays, filming and teaching. Critics praise her impeccable technique, her confidence on stage, and her ability to seamlessly integrate Tap’s past into her present.
“Nothing is missing in their dance,” wrote Brian Seibert in The Times in 2019. “Music and movement are a united impulse, a perfect whole, and every time she improvises the history of the tap hits the cutting edge.”
It is only the second time that a tap artist has won the Jacob’s Pillow Award, which was launched in 2007. In 2013, the genre’s first female laureate, Michelle Dorrance, was honored. Ronald K. Brown and Camille A. Brown are among the other notable winners of recent times.
As part of the upcoming gala, Dormeshia will present an improvised piece accompanied by pianist Idris Frederick, which was filmed at the Denzel Washington School of the Arts in Mount Vernon, NY, in May.