MAD About Dance in the Bronx
By Samuel Corales
Dance has a new outlet in the Bronx under the direction of contemporary instructor and choreographer Michiyo Tanaka. Tanaka has owned and operated her MAD About Dance Company for over 32 years and has toured Japan a dozen times since. Originally formed in Manhattan, MAD came to the Bronx when Tanaka began teaching at Lehman College. After teaching at Lehman for eight years and leading her dance company, Tanaka moved on to become a professor at Bronx Community College.
Tanaka is opening her MAD doors to Bronxite dancers. All members of the company are assigned nicknames and accepted into a welcoming environment fostering growth as well as meaningful and professional interpersonal/business relationships.
“Tarzan,” “Minnie,” “Fuzzy,” “Vicky,” “Mama” and “Bed Bug” are the newest additions, chosen for their fresh promise, raw talent and unwavering passion. Tanaka says she plans to mold and train these inexperienced dancers into proficient contemporary performers. She also says she has even considered beginning a new Bronx-based contemporary dance company.
The majority of dancers Tanaka has trained have all gone on to prestigious dance companies, such as Alvin Ailey, or have secured positions in big time productions such as The Lion King on Broadway. Tanaka explains that after training dancers for countless years, she realizes that many dancers become more competitive and lose the passion that makes dance so personal.
With these new recruits, all college students, Tanaka says she hopes to tap into the flare and determination that is specific to aspiring dancers when they have so much more to prove to the industry and themselves.
When asked what sets apart local Bronxites from residents of other boroughs around New York City, Tanaka says, “I have always loved the Bronx and it’s because I find, not just in dancers, but artists in any shape or form, are more passionate.” She says she finds that passion within this new group of dancers who are working hard and showing much determination.
Eliot Gonzales, a full time Baruch College student, has been dancing with Tanaka for just under a year. Being the veteran of this group of new bloods, Gonzales says that Tanaka is set apart from other dance instructors because “she really cares about her dancers.”
He says that Michiyo pushes her dancers to their limits and finds potential in each of them. “I wouldn’t rather work with anyone else right now,” he says. “I have a remarkable choreographer, amazing instructor and wise mentor all in one. [Tanaka] has helped me grow as a dancer, performer and an individual. [Tanaka]’s the best thing to happen lately in the Bronx for contemporary dance and the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Comprised of many genres and styles, dance has a way of speaking personally to individuals. Tanaka is a medium bringing contemporary to the Bronx and fueling it with the natural passion specific to this fervent borough. Coupling that with her 40 years of training and 35 years of training dancers, the outcome looks very promising indeed.
This group will be performing an original piece at Bronx Community College on May 15 in daytime and evening shows. The name of the piece is “Kanashibari,” which is what Americans know as sleep paralysis. It portrays the ongoing horrors in Japan due to environmental catastrophes and negligent nuclear waste laws.