‘David Dorfman Dance: Come, and Back Again’ at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center by Carolyn Kelemen

 Dorfman mines comic gold in his junkyard dance

Anyone who ever yawned through a pretentious ballet or heaved a sign of relief when a particularly ominous modern dance finally ended can breathe a bit easier. Dancer/musician/choreographer and ‘hugger’ David Dorfman is back in our area, promising us all a brief respite from those, “What does it all mean? dance happenings.

Whitney Tucker, Karl Rogers and Raja Kelly of David Dorfman Dance. Photo by Adam Campos.
Whitney Tucker, Karl Rogers and Raja Kelly of David Dorfman Dance. Photo by Adam Campos.

David Dorfman is a born storyteller through movement and music, and like his previous dances, the stories are honest, fresh, and heart-warming. His most recent multi-media work, Come, And Back Again at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center last night is about seizing the moment…then cleaning up your mess. Like Oscar the Grouch from TV’s Sesame Street, Dorfman plays a character who complains about being left alone, but when he’s by himself, there’s nobody to complain about.

And his biggest complaint is that, “We all have our own messes and how are we going to clean it up for future generations?” The big guy with an even bigger smile spoke to the audience after the show about the work, his personal concerns of family, mortality, and leaving a small imprint on the earth.

Come, and Back Again draws upon the music of Smoke from the Cabbagetown area of Atlanta. It’s front-man Benjamin was known for his cross dressing and raw vocal sounds. An onstage band (which includes Dorfman playing sax and accordion) evokes the spirit of Smoke with two vocalists, Nick Montopoli (wearing a woman’s slip, perhaps in honor of the late drag queen) and Liz De Lise, who sings a mean Patti Smith, a pioneer of Punk.

The scarcity of humor in dance probably stems from the age-old belief that dance must be a “serious” art. Of course, it’s also true that comic dance is devilishly hard to create. Fortunately, that hasn’t fazed Dorfman in this musical celebration, more like a frat party with off-the-wall antics and daredevil dancing.

The four main dancers join the 57-year-old director plus two guest performers throughout the show. They hurl each other into the air, grab onto any limbs available, and finally crash to the ground. The dancing takes place in front of a white junkyard set, designed by Jonah Emerson Bell in consultation with Swoon – who also created the portraits of what looks like family members flashed onto the backdrop. Every punk artifact, including safety pins and cat-eyed sunglasses were used as props; tattered, tie-dyed costumes (except for the lingerie) were designed by Kristi Wood.

Since founding his company nearly three decades ago, David Dorfman has never given up on his gutsy ideas for his dances and presenting his company with powerful athletic movement that calls for 100 per cent plus. Even the musicians, some picked up locally, got into the act – some who looked as if it were the first time they ever held a partner. All in all, it’s a fun night out, and if you’re looking for a party, David Dorfman Dance delivers. As long as you clean up your mess.

Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission.

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David Dorfman Dance’s Come, and Back Again plays again tonight  at 8 PM at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center –  University of Maryland Stadium Drive, in College Park, MD. For tickets, call (301) 405-ARTS (2787), or purchase them online.

David Dorfman Dance website.

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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


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