A top modern-dance choreographer out of New York is taking a bunch of dance civilians through some walking-jumping-sideways movements. And every time they side-shuffle-step, he beams.
"You're doing great!" David Dorfman calls out to the 15, not a few of whom have paunches curving out over their new dance tights. "Let's try that one more time." And "Beautiful work, guys, that was the cleanest yet."
It's true: He has summoned up a kind of beauty from this amateur crew, a bunch of sincere but mostly out-of-shape UA employees. They're leaping side to side, row by row, and the two oldest, who have no penchant for jumps, are dancing a graceful waltz at dead center. Dorfman has made himself a reputation not only for modern dance-theater performed by his professional troupe, David Dorfman Dance, but also for just the kind of community dance work that's going on right here in Ina.
After two weeks of intense rehearsals, this Saturday night the fledgling dancers will perform Dorfman's No Roles Barred in his show at Centennial Hall. The concert also will offer "To Lie Tenderly," a dance-theater work performed by the six Dorfman pros to an original score by Seattle rocker Amy Denio, played live by a team of musicians.
Dorfman, a small, wiry man dressed in cool New York baggies, will dance in the show and play in the band as well.
"This is our fifth time doing No Roles Barred," he explains during a quick break. "We know the format but we customize it to each group. A couple of the structures are set. Then we give them assignments and they make up their own movements."
The piece examines how identity fares at home, in the community and at work. The dance crew for the Tucson version of No Roles Barred is mostly faculty, staff and students, who turned out in response to recruitment ads. Standing out among the crowd of dance newcomers in the studio are a couple of local pros who signed on, including UA student and Orts Theatre of Dance trouper Matt Henley and Jennifer Pollock, a founder of New Articulations.
Dorfman last touched down in Tucson four seasons ago, when he led community members through a collaborative dance called Familiar Movements (The Family Projects). Like choreographer Liz Lerman, who set an even larger project on a veritable herd of Tucsonans last year, Dorfman is interested in breaking down dance barriers, including the large one between amateurs and pros.
During the long rehearsal, Dorfman constantly circles between the Tucsonans and his own troupers, all of whom offer their own choreographic commentary. But there's never any condescension from the professionals, and Dorfman easily teases his band of new hoofers.
"I got all these anonymous messages," he jokes, "telling me you wanted rehearsal to be more complicated." And with that he sets them all stepping sideways again, 5-6-7-8.