David Dorfman Dance's underground
Presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
September 23, 2006
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts kicked off its new Worlds Apart series with the Bay Area premiere of David Dorfman Dance’s underground. Using the 1960s Chicago activists the Weathermen as an impetus, underground, at a tight 50-minutes, provides an introspective look at the fine line between protest and terrorism, the feeling of apathy, and how each of us makes a difference today and in the future.
While Dorfman is a master of dance, he’s also a leader of incorporating movement and ideas into complex performance works, and underground is no different. Combining dance, song, text, and video documentary, Dorfman has created a thought-provoking work. His use of organizing bodies on stage may seem chaotic, but purposeful as well. Dorfman often placed his dancers into clusters or lines, perhaps in representation of groups of protesters versus army units lining up for battle. Dancers marched in circles, reminding us of the continuous need for action, and they often did this in pairs, riding home the idea that if we support each other, we may be more successful. This idea crept up again from time to time, from leaning on someone to pushing or encouraging them to stand up for their beliefs. Circles carried over into the more choreographed movement, with dancers performing hip swivels, spinning lifts, and spins with a sense of freedom and abandon.
Text and imagery played an important part in the “wholeness” of this work. At one point, Karl Rogers asked questions of the artists, and depending on their responses, they danced forward or back, somewhat like an icebreaker you might play at college orientation. Throughout underground, the use of a raised arm, a hand, took on profound significance as both a form of participation and a request to stop, and dancers spoke the word “now” in a whisper and a shout, emphasizing that our decisions at this exact moment affect everyone else to some degree. Jonathan Bepler’s score proved varied and moving, similar to a heartbeat at times and others like a lullaby rocking a baby to sleep.
One additional feature of underground was the use of local dancers as the corps. The dancers seemed competent and well rehearsed, and they blended nicely with the company’s performers.
The title underground seems to fit the work perfectly, and not just because of Sean Green’s Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weatherman Underground. Underground represents where we plant our roots and how we gain the nutrients to grow and survive. Can we grow if we stay silent? And if we have no roots, no convictions, no feelings or beliefs, do we then default to apathetic indifference?
The company’s post-performance discussion was particularly enlightening and many audience members from the full house stayed. Of particular note was how to move underground forward and have it seen by more audiences, and how to gain corporate support for such a controversial work (interestingly, David Dorfman’s presentation at YBC was sponsored by United Airlines).
David Dorfman Dance will next perform underground October 28th, 2006 at Connecticut College’s Palmer Auditorium.
Photo by Gary Noel
Dancer: Joseph Poulson
Dancer: Joseph Poulson