Dance revolution

David Dorfman's "underground" at the Bates festival
By KELSEA BRENNAN-WESSELS  |  July 18, 2007

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VIOLENCE IN MOTION: David Dorfman Dance.
Iraq is going terribly. Afghanistan, not well. Vietnam wasn't very good either. Hounding our consciences — especially for those of us at home — was and is, "What can I do about it?"

That is the underlying theme for the David Dorfman Dance company’s recent work entitled “underground.” Inspired by the 2003 documentary The Weather Underground by Sam Green and Bill Siegel, artistic director David Dorfman has taken ideas of political activism demonstrated by the Weathermen of the late ’60s through the mid-’70s and transformed it into dance.

“But it’s not intended to be a dance-umentary,” says Dorfman. He believes that the piece tackles contemporary questions about being active without being violent, and where the line between them is and should be. The dance is Dorfman’s “prescription for thought contemplation, which will turn into personal action.”

Dorfman was just a young teen when the Weathermen, a militant faction of the Students for a Democratic Society, began violent demonstrations against the government and the Vietnam War in 1969. On the night of the October 1969 "Days of Rage" war protest-gone-riot, six people were shot and many injured. As the attention of the FBI focused on them, the group went underground; at the same time, they began planting bombs in major government buildings, including the Pentagon and the Capitol, though they made sure none of their bombings injured any people.

"Underground" | by David Dorfman Dance | 8 pm July 20 & 21 | Bates College, Schaeffer Theater, 305 College St, Lewiston | $18 | 207.786.6161
Bates Dance Festival | through Aug 11 | www.bates.edu/dancefest
Dorfman first saw the 2003 documentary on television. “Seeing that on TV reminded me of my childhood, watching it on TV,” he says. “I always wondered what happened to those folks.”

Although he rarely takes on historical subjects, Dorfman likes “to have a socio-political edge to every dance” he does. He began to work with the eight other members of his New York City-based dance company, often using improvisation to create or inspire the choreography.

The dance involves not only company members, but also members of the communities where the company tours.

Local dancers, referred to as “the group,” are trained to perform in “underground.” The July 20 and 21 performance at the Bates Dance Festival will be no different, with about 15 local dancers joining the nine company members.

“To me, the piece doesn’t exist without ‘the group,’” Dorfman says.

The performance is a spectacle of dance mixed with spurts of dialogue and complemented by photographic and video projections. The choreography itself fluctuates between aggressive and serene, but never subtle. Despite the parts where the whole company moves in unison, kicking their legs and punching their fists in the air, the most intense moments involve only two dancers, their bodies interlacing in an almost sexual fluidity.

Many movements are repeated throughout the hour-long dance, one being the motion of throwing an object. Considering the subject matter, the audience infers that the movement represents throwing a rock — a violent action. Dorfman, a former baseball player, relates this to a pitch. Throwing a baseball at a batter could be considered a pretty aggressive thing to do. “But you’re not doing it with the intent to hurt someone,” Dorfman points out.

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