Close Up: David Dorfman Dance

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Coming up November 7 (Fairfield, CT) and November 10 (Gainesville, NY), David Dorfman Dance will take Come And Back Again and Prophets of Funk on the road.  Prophets of Funk is a retrospective that digs into the groundbreaking, visceral, and powerful music of Sly & The Family Stone- a band that has both comforted, and inspired Mr. Dorfman throughout his life. It is a celebration of the struggles, and victories of everyday people.  Alternatively, Come And Back Again– uses the raw ferocity of Atlanta-based 90’s punk band, Smoke as a starting point to explore how we sort through the mess of life- deciding what we hold onto, and what we throw away.  Both pieces touch on personal moments in Artistic Director, David Dorfman’s life. We had a chance to chat with the energetic, and gregarious Mr. Dorfman this week before he heads out on tour, collecting some nuggets of wisdom on collaboration, the role of music in dance, and the importance of personally welcoming an audience.

On the importance of ensemble, and shared history, he said:

Our brand of dancing is very experiential for both the performers and for the audience.  It’s not so much about the steps- although we spend a lot of time on the steps!   But it’s more about the people doing the movements on stage- the environment that they create with one another, and in so doing, how they share it with the audience.  So, therefore, the history that we have with each other comes up pretty strongly.

For example, in Come and Back Again, there is a section where I do these improvised duets with one company member at a time.  And it is a section where I am saying goodbye to my younger dance self that I am actually seeing right in front of me in these incredible generous performers.  And when I’m dancing with them- sometimes it’s very moving, sometimes a little comedic- whatever- but in that moment, I think back to when I met each of them.  And then I think of the presence, and the present, and their presence, and our presence together, and it’s palpable.

On how the company brings a multi-generational audience to the theatre for Prophets of Funk:

“You need to invite and embrace people to get them into the theatre.  But then you want to give a challenge, a positive challenge, a challenge that can be worked with, and has to do with the way we conduct ourselves in the world.  Cause our art is about inspiration, about change, about healing.  Yes, it’s always about entertainment- always about breaking out the whiskey, and wonderful dancing.  But it’s also about what makes us particularly human in any given moment in time and how do we react under stress, how do we react under extreme cases of joy- that’s what I’m interested in.  And there’s so much to talk about in Sly’s music- the racial, economic class issues that Sly dealt with and continues to deal with are still so relevant today.

I was honoring my mentor, American modern dancer and choreographer, Daniel Nagrin, in this keynote speech a couple weeks ago, and you know, his big thing is ‘You gotta do your homework.  You have to do your homework so that when it comes time to share it with an audience, you’ve done everything you can.  You can’t control an audience.  You’ve done everything you can.  So then it’s like a beautiful dinner that you’re laying out- a platter, a banquet for them, and then hopefully, they can thrive.’”

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On his collaboration with fellow Connecticut College professor, Shawn Hove, on the media design for Come And Back Again, he told this story:

“This is the first full out project we’ve worked on together, so it was a little bit of a ‘getting to know you’ during this process, and it was fragmented- there were long breaks between rehearsals, etcetera.   And when [Come And Back Again] was in previews, for a particular moment, we used this video of me that we shot on the back of his old truck.  And it just wasn’t working the way we wanted.  And Shawn said, ‘this video looks like you’re dying.  And this piece isn’t about you dying!  It is about saying goodbye to a former self.  It’s about mess and junk and trying to say goodbye to that, and then trying to see what you want to hold onto.’

And it was that which led him to some archives here at Connecticut College, and he found this old solo of mine that ended up being what we project in the show…But it’s that knowledge of each other, and that desire to dig that found just the right video.”

On music’s starring role in his work:

“I always regard music.  I played music. I still play music.  I think of each dance I make as a musical manifestation.  Sometimes I think in those terms of ‘How can the music accompany this?’ and then other times I think, “You know what? The music is the star now!”  My pal, performing artist, and longtime David Dorfman Dance collaborator, Dan Froot, pushed me toward this direction years ago.  This idea of the music being the star of the work, and the dancers simply supporting it.  And it does not come naturally to us, as dancers, to think that way.  But when you are working with incredible music, you have to think, ‘how can I best paint a picture with this music? To this music?’”

You can learn more about David Dorfman Dance here.

Come And Back Again will perform Fairfield University Quick Center for the Arts (Fairfield, CT) on November 7th at 8pm.

Prophets of Funk will perform at the University of Florida Phillips Center (Gainesville, FL) on November 10th at 7:30pm.