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Ex-baseball player turned choreographer, David Dorfman's moves reflect teamwork.

The Golden Rule

David Dorfman's ongoing concern has been with how people treat one another. He prefers witnessing compassion, but he's well aware of the pervasiveness of aggression and our own blindness toward the role we play in the situation. His choreography reveals how we work together and how we contribute to the conflicts that separate us. These themes appear in his works, "To Lie Tenderly" and "Subverse," presented at VCU's Grace Street Theater on Oct. 19-20.

As a baseball player in high school and college, he learned about the value of teamwork. He believed, however, "You either did sports or you did art." When he eventually quit baseball, he discovered he missed its intense physicality. As a business student in the late '70s when disco pervaded the airwaves, he replaced the loss by frequenting dance clubs. "I developed this extreme desire to dance at all hours — late night, early morning. The whole social thing of trying to relate to other people through dance steps, trying to show off and meet other people, all these things were really great." A baseball captain involved in theater suggested he take a dance class. His late-night love quickly carried over into the day. "I was bitten by the choreographic bug," he confesses. Eventually, he completed an M.F.A. in dance from Connecticut College and toured with the ritual-based company, Kei Tekei's Moving Earth.

It's the immediate visceralness of the body that consistently appeals to him. "The body is what we live in. It's expressive, controversial, taboo. ...The strongest plays have great language that can cut like a knife, but there's something about seeing people defy physics that appeals to team work. Together, people can do things that they can't do individually. That is one of those cool, cool opportunities that we have in the movement field, that we can get two-three-four people floating in the air or flying across the floor."

"To Lie Tenderly" exhibits those very ideas. Walls of fabric separate dancers who continually try to cross through them. At times desperate, others times with great tenderness, dancers partner, fall, roll and dive, challenging separation and unity, coming together and coming apart.

Relying on choreographed moves, as well as wild moments of improvisation, "Subverse" reveals a similar preoccupation. Performing disco, Lindy Hop, and other social movements, the dancers create a ritual of bonding. Movement is energetic, almost frenetic, punctuated by rests where dancers assume more ordinary gestures, a community searching for identity, movement less oppositional, more individual.

Using snippets of dialog, video and abstract movements, Dorfman purposefully makes his vigorous dances accessible. He wants viewers to share his kinetic joy. In leaps, falls and pranks, he exaggerates or exposes our own pitfalls with the hope that we "see our own actions in a different light so that we might go in a different direction." For him, there's one ultimate direction, working together, and the dancers' constant stops and starts show how much effort ends up being exerted in the process.

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