Tuesday, June 13, 2006

American Dance Festival: David Dorfman Dance

Image of 'Underground' by Derek Anderson, Staff Photographer, The Independent Weekly; used with permission.
Tonight I went solo to see David Dorfman Dance perform their 50-minute piece Underground which opened last night in its world premiere. There were 35-40 dancers on stage; I believe the group is about 12-20 strong and they ask for volunteers to train in each locale.

During the Full Frame Film Festival in April, I enjoyed the 2002 documentary film by Sam Green and Bill Siegel about the Weather Underground (imdb has more information). I believe it was this film that inspired David - in comments after the performance, he said that the story of the group that used destructive means to voice opposition to the Vietnam War, as retold in the film, was a story he couldn't get out of his mind.

I didn't initially enjoy the piece, but quickly found it to be rather compelling. Beyond the choreographic scope of dozens of strong dancers, what made the piece especially interesting to me was the multimedia screens behind them. I noted (and received a strong confirmation when I asked in the post-performance discussion) a strong diagonal element to the graphics that implied a separation of generations, protestors vs. convention followers, activity vs. passivity, and Vietnam and Iraq wars.

It added quite a spark near the end when dancers aimed "LED blinkies" (flashing light emitting diodes that they had attached to magnets which could then stick to the metalic screen) at the large hand on the screen and flung them, leaving a hand with lovely colored lights. In the post-performance discussion, David talked a little about these lights - they have recently been used in places like San Francisco by folks wanting to make a statement but without permanently defacing buildings with grafitti. I'm glad that I saw this show!

On the troupe's website, David has this to say about Underground:

Although I was only 13 during the Days of Rage in 1969, too young to be protesting in the Chicago streets, I remember being awed by the audacity of the Weathermen. Now I am interested in the legacy of the Weather Underground's principles, and also in its foibles and its regrets. Looking back at the 60s and how it was the core of my emotional and artistic formation will be my entry point into this exploration-in essence, a return to my own ‘movement’ roots." “underground” will explore the inside world of political activism, asking the questions: when can activism become terrorism, or vice versa, and is condoned or endorsed killing/destruction ever justified?

Postscript: You can read reviews of this and the Paul Taylor performances in the June 14 Independent.

Image by Derek Anderson, Staff Photographer, The Independent Weekly, and used with permission.


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