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David Dorfman Dance

From Weathermen To Now - A Plea For Action

To some, the fact that the Weathermen underground existed in the United States at all is an enigma. Like the recent "home grown" terrorists in Toronto it is hard for some to get their minds around the fact that in the 1960's the US had its own such terrorists - violent terrorists that blew up buildings and killed people; albeit their own people. To David Dorfman the Weathermen are an "inspiration." Not so much for the violence and terrorism they perpetuated, but for their commitment to action - action that Dorfman sees seriously absent in today's American culture. A brief, even local look proves him right about that absence. During the Vietnam War CU/Boulder students protested that war, and the Colorado Daily - still a vibrant paper in Boulder - was thrown off the campus because of its anti-war editorial stance. The last major student protest at CU/Boulder - a violent one - was about the bars near that campus closing too early. Action? Yes, but about what?

In "underground" - a dance concert presented at the University of Denver's Newman Center on February 28, 2009 - Dorfman used the Weathermen experience as a jumping off point to pose some serious questions to his audience. Questions like, "If you save some people by killing other people, can you save more by killing more?" "Does what you do make a difference?," "When is war good?" Those questions often exploded out of extreme movement phrasing, other times they arose from questions asked by interlocutor Karl Rogers, or from stillness punctuated with quick moves and shouted "NOW's." Threaded throughout the performance was a signature phrase repeatedly given to the audience by Dorfman even while Stephen Seifert gave his "pre-show" talk - a talk Seifert had to give over continuing house music of mid-twentieth century songs. Dorfman's choreography for this work includes his signature extreme movement set on himself and nine company members as well as huge ensemble sections set on that company and fifty-three (yes 53!) dancers from the Front Range Colorado Community. Those huge ensemble sections were particularly endearing due to compositional quality and the fact that all sixty-one performers were not only totally in synch, but were also fully invested in the work.

Special mention goes not only to the fifty-three "community dancers" who so thoroughly embraced the work, but to a striking, mid performance duet by Heather McArdle and Francis Stansky that was so reminiscent of energized duets by "La La Human Steps," also from the mid to late twentieth century (see example and related clips at The work ended in dramatic repetitions of Dorfman and Stansky being thrown along a diagonal from a huge upstage right group, after which they moved downstage left and repeated a part of the original signature phrase given the audience by Dorfman at the beginning.

Sometimes Dorfman's work is poignant; often it is comedic and cute like his and Dan Froot's "Live Sax." "underground" is neither of those. It sometimes is violent, pulls no punches, and is an honest and forthright plea for us to become activists. Like Bill T. Jones' recent works, "underground" makes its audiences think long after they have seen the performance.

Donald K, Atwood MFA, Ph.D.

© Copyright World Dance Reviews 2009

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