Backed by a soundtrack featuring the music of punk rockers Benjamin Smoke and Patti Smith, David Dorfman Dance will take to the stage with “Come, and Back Again” at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Friday and Saturday.
Based in New York City, artistic director David Dorfman founded the company in 1985. The group has performed extensively in New York City and throughout North and South America, and Europe, working to make dance theater accessible to a wide range of audiences.
“Our goal in making the evening of dance theater is that there’s a new take on delivering information to the audience,” Dorfman said. “Hopefully we do it in a different way than they’ve seen before ...”
Like most of the company’s pieces, Dorfman said the starting point of inspiration for “Come, and Back Again” is not where the dance ended up. The artistic director said the performance began with the music.
“I went back to some other musical roots and looked at the more poetic rock and roll that emerged from the late 1960s and 1970s and it influenced me a lot,” Dorfman said. “Patti Smith was one person I looked to immediately ... There was this one song, ‘Gloria’ that I listened to as a little kid ... and it just really moved me ... That led us to this great music from a great underground band from the ’90s from Atlanta called Smoke.”
Smith is a singer/songwriter and poet who became popular in the New York City punk rock scene in the 1970s, while Benjamin Smoke was the frontman of Atlanta band Smoke.
Once Dorfman decided on the music, much of the piece’s movement came from company members.
“We work as a collaborative,” said dancer Karl Rogers. “[David] is really interested in hiring people who are artists and choreographers in their own right.”
Rogers, who began dancing with David Dorfman Dance in 2005, is the artistic director of his own company, Red Dirt Dance, and an assistant professor of dance at the College of Brockport in New York. Rogers met Dorfman in the late 1990s in Chicago when he was trying to make it as an actor. The two crossed paths several times over the next few years before Dorfman asked him to be a member of the company.
“This piece started when David brought to the table the music of Patti Smith,” Rogers said. “He brings the CD in and says, ‘Listen to it and come in with ideas.’”
Dorfman and his dancers began forming ideas around the concept of the “messiness of daily life.”
“Benjamin Smoke himself, he basically grew [up] in rural Atlanta,” Rogers said. “He was really poor and he ultimately died of AIDS and much of his music and lyrics ... dealt with the difficulty of his existence.”
Dorfman and company work to reflect these notions in “Come, and Back Again.”
“There’s a lot about morality and making the most of life while we’re here on earth,” Dorfman said.
“Sometimes life is hard but there’s still a pleasure,” Rogers added. “I feel like Benjamin Smoke’s music does that and we try to honor that.”
Beyond honoring Smoke’s legacy, Dorfman said he also hopes, as with any David Dorfman production, to strike a chord with audiences.
“You don’t have to know this experience in your own life ... everyone can enter at their own particular place and everyone can get something out of the questions we ask or the stories we tell,” Dorfman said. “We’re not trying to be prescriptive or moralistic. We’re not trying to say, ‘This is a good life, this is what you should do.’ We never like to do that.”
Instead, Dorfman said he hopes to simply expose audiences to the work and allow them to form their own interpretation.
“I like being available to the public,” Dorfman said. “ ... I don’t find accessible art a dirty word or a bad thing ... My theme or theory is that someone who comes in and is curious about our show, they don’t need to know everything about dance, specifically, physical theater, or about us. They can just literally come and say, ‘Oh, that interests me or my friend brought me. And we will kind of escort you through the events.”