Dormeshia Wins Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award

Dormeshia’s surge of midcareer recognition continues. On Tuesday, the performer and choreographer was named as the winner of the 2021 J...


Dormeshia’s surge of midcareer recognition continues. On Tuesday, the performer and choreographer was named as the winner of the 2021 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, an honor that comes with an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000. She will be celebrated for her “exceptional vision and achievement” at a virtual gala on June 12.

“Dormeshia is quite simply one of the greatest tap dancers of our time,” Pamela Tatge, the artistic and executive director of Jacob’s Pillow, said in a statement. “She is a radiant human being whose elegance, flair and generosity of spirit draws us to new heights of what’s possible in the tap form.”

“I feel that a win for me is a win for tap dance,” Dormeshia said by email. The dancers who paved the way for her — many of whom didn’t receive the recognition they deserved — were at the front of her mind when she got the news about the award, she added. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for their amazing talent and perseverance.”

The connection between Dormeshia and Jacob’s Pillow, in Becket, Mass., runs deep. She first appeared at the dance center’s summer festival in 1993, at 17, as a part of the Los Angeles company Jazz Tap Ensemble. Two decades later, she returned — as a dancer and a choreographer — for “The Blues Project” with the company Dorrance Dance. Her most recent performance at 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 dancemaker and performer — she began dancing professionally as a child — has also included several Broadway stints, film work and teaching. Critics praise her impeccable technique, onstage confidence and ability to seamlessly integrate tap’s past with its present.

“In her dancing, nothing is missing,” Brian Seibert wrote in The Times in 2019. “Music and motion are a unified impulse, a perfect whole, and every time she improvises, the history of tap meets its cutting edge.”

This is only the second time that a tap artist has won the Jacob’s Pillow award, which was established in 2007. The first recipient from the genre, Michelle Dorrance, was honored in 2013. Ronald K. Brown and Camille A. Brown are among the other notable recent winners.

As a part of the coming gala, Dormeshia will present an improvised piece accompanied by the pianist Idris Frederick, which was filmed at the Denzel Washington School of the Arts in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in May.

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