Artist Tells Stories With Dance
by KARI WETHINGTON
Wilder Main was packed Monday night as David Dorfman danced, told stories and encouraged the audience to do the same. Dorfman, a choreographer and founder of the David Dorfman Dance Troupe, put a new spin on what a performance can be by spending as much time getting the audience on its feet as he did playing his accordion and presenting his own choreographed works.
“He’s so innovative that he’s tampered with the question of what dance can be,” Professor of Emerging Arts Linda Weintraub said as she introduced the energetic performer. Dorfman is one of five performers in this spring’s Maverick Artists/Visionary Educators Series, which, like Oberlin’s emerging arts department, is dedicated to seeking new approaches to the rapidly changing face of the arts.
“We’re going to go informal tonight,” Dorfman said as he took the stage. Explaining that the night’s presentation was going to be more impromptu than his finished work, Dorfman urged the importance of his dialogue with the audience throughout the night. After playing several icebreaker games (such as the one where the 100-plus audience members shouted their names one after the other, as quickly as possible), Dorfman asked, “How about stories? Anyone have stories?”
After a student offered his story of getting staples in his head after falling into a radiator in dance class, the story grew with help from other members of the audience, ending with a tale of a boy struck by lightning and thus blessed with supernatural powers. Dorfman then performed an impromptu dance that served as a dramatic interpretation of the story that had been created. Dorfman’s version added a rich and rueful perspective to the eccentric story.
“I’m trying to do a dance that’s urgent and present at the same time, without meandering,” Dorfman said, describing his interest in exploring the idea of what it takes to get close to someone — his way of gearing the crowd up for another interactive activity. The goal was to tell a story to a partner through four short motions and listen as the partner told his or her story. According to Dorfman, it was a listening exercise, and one that most of the participants failed despite having fun in the process.
For Dorfman, performance is interaction. He encouraged the audience “To get to know the folks that you’re with,” instead of just going with the flow of looking, watching and critiquing entertainment from afar. With this in mind he performed a short improvisational piece that toyed with the phrases “I am” and “I am not” while jumping over an imagined line followed by inviting audience members to do the same thing, only seated.
After about an hour of prompting audience activity, Dorfman presented a longer piece which was a conglomeration of choreographed pieces and works in progress. As he danced in short but fluid motions, he said things like, “This dance is about getting close to you,” followed by, “This dance is about what I wish I was.” One could feel the energy as Dorfman danced and acted out the dialogue between a man buying a new suit and the evil tailor who makes it for him, eventually melding villain and victim into one chaotic shouting match. The pieces fit together to create a smooth whole, and kept the audience captivated throughout. Dorfman concluded the piece with, “This dance is about where you thought we’d be now.”
Finally, Dorfman danced the last piece of the night, “Sleep Story,” a five-minute dance which he has performed numerous times since he first choreographed it in 1987. This piece, like his others, used storytelling as a centerpiece. Dorfman jogged in place as he wove his theatrical tale of the absurd antics of lovers and mothers and from time to time was pushed over by a dancer from Cleveland who accompanied him for this piece.
One could not be disappointed with Dorfman’s powerful presentation. Though Oberlin enjoys its share of abstract and “up-and-coming” art, Dorfman truly represents innovative and emerging art, something the school could use more.
Burning Joins Surreal Effects, Elegant
Control All-Stars Bring Hip-Hop to 'Sco
Tells Stories With Dance
Students for Independent Gallery Space
of Rhythm Proves Diverse, Powerful
Diva Erin McKeown Rocks the Cat in the Cream
bien Engaging Despite Incoherent Plot
To Provide Cat Laughs