The New York Times calls David Dorfman Dance “reliably joyful.” But that’s just scratching the surface. That reliable joy is the result of incessant work to first address humanity’s flaws. The dance company shows us that one way to confront those flaws, the things that divide us, that try to destroy us, is to move.
Dorfman, a decorated choreographer and professor of dance, begins a weeklong residency with Dancers’ Workshop today. That residency culminates with the performance Aroundtown. It depicts the many ways in which love endures in times of violence and adversity.
“It actually started as a thing called ‘The Umbrellas Project,'” Dorfman said. “I was obsessed with the movie Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a classic French film. The entire film is sung so there’s not a single spoken word and it’s just enchanting. It gets in your soul.”
The film’s motifs, unrequited love juxtaposed by the Algerian War, struck Dorfman. Love prevails even amid brutal conflict. And that theme aligns with what Dorfman sees as his job as an artist: “to bring attention all the time to peace and to joy.”
He has developed several guiding tenets for David Dorfman Dance that typify this. One, he said, is that “movement is necessary.”
“It could be political movements or just the movement of the body and the soul.”
Another is “invite and indict.” That means, Dorfman said, get people into the theater, or on the stage, embrace them and then pleasantly challenge them to modify their behavior towards peace and towards kindness and love.
In light of the recent mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio, Dorfman said Aroundtown takes on additional meaning for him and his dancers. “It sets up the notion of nonviolent behavior as hopefully a norm instead of a deviant of the norm. Even though rarely do we have shootings that happen that close to one another, this kind of violence has been going on for a long time and there’s a lot made of it right around the events.”
The problem, Dorfman said, is that soon after, the conversations fade away and public outcry wanes. He hopes his work can help keep the dialogue going.
Looking Each Other in the Eyes
Three years ago, dance artist Jordan Lloyd was a performing apprentice with David Dorfman Dance. After what Dorfman called his “meteoric rise,” Lloyd is now among the group’s veteran performers. Lloyd said Aroundtown is a salve for a reeling populace.
“There’s this sort of sensitivity around the way that we’re engaging with one another,” Lloyd said. “This care, that feels really important right now and I hope that when folks are able to see that—people caring for one another, people supporting one another, looking each other in the eyes, giving each other time to have their moment—I hope that that can translate and hopefully encourage people to take some of these actions in their own lives.”
Dorfman said theater, even a one-hour show, presents a unique opportunity to connect with audiences. “We’re looking for growth in real-time. That’s the magic of theater. You enter at eight o’clock on Saturday and then you hopefully leave the theater an hour later transformed.”
David Dorfman Dance is in residence this week at Dancers’ Workshop, teaching classes and running events, including a parade on Friday. The residency culminates with the performance Aroundtown, 8 p.m. Saturday at Center for the Arts.