Michela Marino Lerman is a globally sought after tap dance artist, performer, choreographer, educator, and all-around creative spirit. Since debuting on Sesame Street at the age of 5, she has dazzled audiences by her extraordinary rhythmic expression and musical sensitivity - Michela makes music with her feet. The Huffington Post described her as "a hurricane of rhythm so tightly syncopated it caused many jaws to drop" and the NY Times has called her both a "prodigy" and deemed her dancing as "flashes of brilliance."
Michela has performed all around the world, has appeared on US national television; been featured in widely-released documentary films about tap; been commissioned to produce, direct, choreograph,and star in shows; been profiled extensively in the media; received numerous awards; tapped in nearly every leading jazz venue in New York, taught in scores of schools and dance studios locally and globally; and made great progress in her personal quest to bring jazz and tap closer together and to have tap be acknowledged as a percussive musical instrument as much as it is a dance form.
Michela has been presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) over a dozen times since 2013, in both Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola and The Appel Room. Other NYC jazz venues where she has perfotmrd include the Blue Note, The Village Vanguard, Ginny’s Supper Club, Minton's Playhouse, Birdland, Small’s (where she ran a weekly jazz tap jam for over 5 years and has over 225 performances housed in their video archive), Smoke, Mezzrow, Fat Cat, St. Nick’s Pub, and the Zinc Bar.
In August 2016 Michela joined Wynton Marsalis as part of "The Young Stars of Jazz" at both JALCand in France to perform at the Marciac Jazz Festival. In the summer of 2015, hers was the first tap dancer’s set to ever be included in NYC’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival. She has also danced in the JVC Jazz Festival, JALC’s Generations in Jazz Festival, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, a number of additional international jazz and music festivals, and the Harlem Arts Festival.
Her current projects include a musical based on the music of Fats Waller called "This Joint Is Jumpin'" which she co-conceived and choreographed. The shows debut will be at Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's new theater, The Other Palace in London, England. Other projects include long-format tap presentations of the work of Charlie Parker and Betty Carter, as well as formation of her own sextet whom she performs with regularly. In addition, Michela is very proudly a member of the band "Michael Mwenso and the Shakes" whom she tours and performs with extensively. She has also had the extreme pleasure of performing with Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Roberts, Barry Harris, Roy Hargrove, Benny Golson, Ravi Coltrane, the Evan Sherman Big Band, Sammy Miller and the Congregation (whom she has recorded with), the Gotham Kings, Revive Big Band and many, many more.
Michela has performed, taught, and/or served as an invited tap instructor or artist in Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom – as well as numerous U.S. cities and universities, including the Jacob’s Pillow Festival, Julliard, and Tulane University. In addition to a role in the documentary Tap or Die, she is a primary subject of a full-length, tap documentary directed by Mark Wilkinson and partly produced by Sundance Films. She has also appeared in documentaries about tap dance on BBC and the Ovation cable network.
Articles and feature pieces of Michela have been carried in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, Dance magazine, Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher, the New Yorker, and the Huffington Post. She has danced on the CBS show Secret Talents of the Stars and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report as well as being honored with a Flo-Bert award by the NY Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day. She is also currently an artist-in-residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation.
A lifelong resident of New York City, Michela received her early tap education from giants of the art including Buster Brown, Gregory Hines, LeRoy Myers, Marion Coles, Jimmy Slyde, Ernest "Brownie" Brown, Mable Lee, and Peg Leg Bates. She has also had the honor of performing with many esteemed tap dancers such as Michelle Dorrance’s “Dorrance Dance”, Jason Samuels Smith’s “A.C.G.I.”, Savion Glover and many more.
While still a teenager, Michela was selected to be the only tap dancer on the Editorial Advisory Board of Dance Spirit magazine; appeared on the cover of Dance Teacher magazine together with her mentor Gregory Hines; won the Harlem Dance Festival’s Hoofers Challenge 2 years in a row; and was inducted into the famed Copasetics as their first, and only, female member.
Photographer: Luis Guillen