Dancing Across North Carolina

Luis RodriguezJust over a year ago David Dorfman sat down with Charles and Stephanie Reinhart, co-directors of the American Dance Festival in Durham, where his company David Dorfman Dance (DDD) spends part of each summer. He expressed his desire for the company to do more dancing in the state and to share its special brand of dance workshops to get others dancing.

Photo: Greg Miller

The Reinharts contacted the Council to see if we could help. DDD's track record of working miracles in communities was well known, so a spark turned into a flame, and the collaboration took off.

Within weeks, under the leadership of Vicki Vitiello, touring and presenting director at the Council, partners had signed on across the state to sponsor DDD for ten weeks of residencies. John Ellis, director of Diana Wortham Theater at Pack Place Performing Arts Center in Asheville, one of the partners, says this never could have happened anywhere else. "The spirit of cooperation among presenters in North Carolina is legendary - one of the reasons I moved here - and this collaboration certainly proves that it's true. There is no 'this is my project' mentality here," he says.

Funding remained a question for this ambitious project, but other funders liked what they heard also. Besides the Council, both the NEA and the Culpeper Foundation committed their support, and the state will soon be dancing.

Each of the residencies will last two weeks and will consist of a variety of activities. Workplace Workshops are a priority and an approach Dorfman particularly enjoys. "Creativity is contagious," says Dorfman. "Corporate leaders tell us their biggest challenges are teambuilding, networking, interoffice communications, and stress reduction. We can enhance all that with a dance workshop during a lunch break. Skills do transfer. The teamwork, trust, creative problem-solving, and communication involved in dancing together can be used back in the office. And we often hear that our workshops are the first time employees have actually spoken to one another."

Several of the sites have chosen to host an established DDD residency format which allows community members to be involved in the creation and performance of an original dance piece. Both the Family Project residency (which explores familial relationships with a group of traditional and non-traditional family units) and the No Roles Barred residency (through which different communities will be encouraged to reverse roles and create works which examine their own social issues) consist of an initial public workshop/audition, from which 20 or so community members will be selected. They will go on to participate in nightly rehearsals over a 2-week period to create a unique work which is performed as a part of a DDD concert. "These are people who didn't know they could dance. What else might be possible for them?" asks Dorfman. "We can remove barriers and change beliefs through dance."

Other activities to be offered in each community include master classes for area dance artists, dance demonstrations for community groups, open rehearsals, and pre/post-performance question and answer sessions. Participants at every level who have been lucky enough to be exposed to Dorfman and his dancers will take away a greater understanding of movement as communication and dance as an art form. And by working closely with N.C. dancers/choreographers to share ideas about community residency work and to help them develop their skills, Dorfman will leave the state dancing long after he's moved on.