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Flash Review 1, 10-27:
Twirling & Swirling with Dave
Dorfman, Paying Tribute and Subverting
By Asimina Chremos
Copyright 2000 Asimina Chremos
CHICAGO -- Damn fine!
The David Dorfman crew last night kicked off the inaugural season
at our city's newest, sleekest dance space with a kick-ass show
that paid homage to the old Dance Center of Columbia College and
gave us plenty of inspiration for further sweating and grooving,
onward and ever. The first piece on the program, "The Move Project,"
employed a community cast of over 20 performers who represented
"the extended Dance Center family" (program note). The second half
of the evening was filled to the brim with "Subverse," the swelling,
flying, twisting, falling, and floating new work by the Dorfman
company, which will premiere in full length in December at the Brooklyn
Academy of Music.
The Move Project started
subtly as the audience entered, with a video projection on the back
wall of the stage area. Views of architectural details of the old
Dance Center on Sheridan Road (a former movie theater from the 30s
or 40s) were edited together with views out the window of the surrounding
sidewalks and streets. As Dance Center executive director Phil Reynolds
gave his welcoming curtain talk, he was interrupted by various members
of the audience claiming to be him, approaching the stage, and horning
in on his announcement. We were treated to a little of Phil's charming
dance stylings as the stage filled up with performers, and The Move
Project commenced in earnest.
A rangy, adorable, organic
composition of memories, movements, images, and groupings, the project
drew on the participants' individuality and creativity as movers,
personalities, and storytellers. Most poignant was an extended section
where the stage was filled with couples doing duets that included
one standing, one crawling, like a person and his/her dog, together
with contact improvisation sequences including body surfing, rolling,
Apparent in this work
was Dorfman's eye for material that is human, honest, and bittersweet.
In the big group movement sections, we saw unison dancing that was
never quite unison. There was always someone going the other way
or doing something else, composed in a totally casual way that seemed
so easy and free, presenting us with an image of community where
there is a lot of agreement but zero conformity. Right on! This
in itself was deeply satisfying and touching.
Now, "Subverse" was something
else entirely. The dancing by the fab-u-lous dancers of somewhat
androgynous proportions, all big-armed women and ripple-spined men,
was masterful, lush, momentum-ous, inverted, and emotional. It was
really hard for me to sit still. I so wanted to dance. It made me
love dancing, want to eat dancing, and be grateful for now and ever
that I am a dancer. I can't wait to get into the studio today! "Subverse"
is a world of sweaty, driven, energized and sometimes collapsing
superhumans in big white angel-floaty full pants and sexy apron/tunic
tops in earthy colors (by Naoko Nagata).
The program notes said
something about how the piece is rooted in memories of 70s/80s club
culture, so as I watched I flashed back to Rosy Co., the Japanese
group that had a similar theme. I didn't quite get the club thing
in "Subverse," except for the music (by Hahn Rowe) and some of the
lighting (Jane Cox). The set (Paul Clay) consisted of three square
columns hung here and there, made of red fabric and chrome, giving
a sense of vertical space up/down and the dangerous glow of red
light. There was a geometric patch of grass downstage center, a
little yard (what, I thought, is the green grass doing in a world
with no sun?). One thinks Subverse, Sub = under, universe, some
gentler form of hell we are in, maybe. Red and green are very life-lively
colors, the colors of christmas, of blood and springtime.
David Dorfman starts
out "Subverse" with a very accomplished talking-moving solo around
the grass about a new suit that was expertly performed -- but I
think I'd have to see the work again to draw any conclusions about
the relevance of this story, or any of the other verbal moments
in the work. All were well done but somehow left me with more questions
than information of any sort.
But who cares? Many dancers
in the audience were raving afterwards about the duets, the partnering
that they found exquisite and intense. I found my eye was more drawn
to other things: the committed solo dancing, the loose but cohesive
group patterns, the loose powerful arm movements and hand gestures,
the wide stances and open eyes. I loved also the odd theatrical
images, like when one male dancer repeated an image of running with
his pants falling down, and a repeated theme of many laughing at
While the dancers of
David Dorfman Dance all seem to come from the same planet, there
is distinction in each of their interpretations. I can't attach
names to faces with this group, but I will say that Jeanine Durning,
Curt Haworth, Paul Matteson, Jennifer Nugent, Lisa Race, and Tom
Thayer are all totally remarkable and unique. Dorfman himself was
often lurking in the shadows of the piece, watching, pointing, entering
and flurrying around. His role was the only one significantly differentiated
from the others.
There is something in
Dorfman's presentation and style as a choreographer that reminds
me of Bebe Miller's and Doug Elkins' works -- a kind of transcendent
physicality. It has to do, I think, with a postmodern technical
dance style that has been deeply infected with contact improvisation
and, yes, that club/street thing, but with the emotion and passion
passed down from Martha and Isadora and Doris. It's something we
don't really have here in Chicago, where most of the contemporary
dance we see is based in ballet and jazz that is hegemonic, working
away from gravity, and exalting romance rather than deeply rooted
That about says it. Except:
Maybe the suit story has to do with the devil. Dorfman thinks the
suit is free, it's made for him and it fits like a glove but then
he has to pay for it after all? The suit is the agent of descent?
There was for me a very clear heaven/hell kind of place in "Subverse."
At one point Dorfman holds a pose center stage and all the dancers
come out one at a time and do an odd jump and pop-on-toes kind of
thing right next to him and then start twirling and swirling around
him; they are now wearing black silky shifts over their tops. The
angels have gone dark and the humans have gone ghostly.
This piece is worth more
than one look. Dance Inisder, bring me to NYC to see it again!
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