A signature strength of Artistic Director David Dorfman's work is a style of choreography that is collaborative, responsive, and inclusive. In effect, Dorfman’s choreography includes a growing number of collaborators–most closely, the artists who make up David Dorfman Dance (the company members and most recent artistic collaborators Sam Crawford, Sam Green, David Kyuman Kim, and Alex Timbers)–but also audience and community members as well. Dorfman readily engages local community members in conjunction with his performances both onstage and off. Audience participation is democratic in nature (community projects and workshops, invitations to join the dancers on stage at performances but also in dialogue after performances) yet also critical in practice, hence Dorfman’s motto “invite and indict”.
Indeed, Dorfman's injunction to "invite and indict" his audience is evident here as underground's 50 community cast members perform at the American Dance Festival along side David Dorfman Dance company in 2006. At each touring venue, community casts of up to between 25 to 50 members were chosen to dance in underground, with over 500 dancers participating over the course of 4 years. Underground investigates the fine line between activism and terrorism traversed by the radical leftist group The Weather Underground. The piece invites the participants and audience to examine whether their actions "make a difference" both in and out of the theater. By enlisting community dancers to join the cast, Dorfman opens his work as well as the experience of dance to an expansive and increasingly robust dialogue around the relationship between the dance and politics, the arts and everyday life. As Dorfman's probes core problems of the human condition, his "invite and indict" motto becomes integral here in the portrayal of company members as and dancing with everyday people. The integration of community casts physicalizes “invite and indict”: the community and the audience become part of the work in the rehearsal process and in performance; the experience generates a visceral, personal, and immediate meaning for the community and audience participants, expressing long term impacts in their lives long after the performances.
To highlight these elements, this selection shows Dorfman's interest not just in affirming action and agency but also the critical illumination that dance provides on the human condition. There are physical and vocal calls to action as well as interrogations about the vitality of the American political left. Dancer Karl Rogers, playing an embedded “reporter” begins the evening with the question, “Does what you do make a difference?” The dance section first on our video is the company’s kinetic response, a self-investigation by comrades readying for political battle - the dancers turning and enveloping each other, showing and implying explosions and implosions. Rogers then asks, “Will you stand up?” A mapping action by community dancers resolves into Patrick Ferrari’s confessional on apathy that begins, “I used to be so angry.” The intent is, through humor and movement, to be critical yet compassionate about the conundrum of answering Rogers’ initial question. The duet at the end speaks to the torment of translating large-scale political struggles into the intimacies of one-on-one engagements with those we hold most dear. Throughout, underground presents the audience with an opportunity to probe their own agency.
Accompanying underground are interactive video work projected on two large walls in the theater during the entire performance. These visuals intensify and enhance the performance, posing as choreographic partner in the common inquiry to the audience about their commitments in regard to activism, terrorism, violence, and the human experience. A comparably engaging collaboration will take place with documentarian Sam Green and creative consultant David Kyuman Kim for Come, and Back Again.