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The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth University

By Susan Wallner, JerseyArts.com

originally published: 02/21/2018

The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth University

“I didn’t intend to make work about my Jewish legacy. It just kind of percolated,” says Carolyn Dorfman, choreographer and artistic director of Carolyn Dorfman Dance.  Now in its 35th season, Carolyn Dorfman Dance explores a wide range of subjects, including the changing nature of love, the power of the natural world, even the meaning and attraction of tattoos.

Performances are high energy, technically demanding and visually stunning. But it is the stories that are paramount for Dorfman as an artist: “The commonality of the human experience is what really drives me. That idea of connecting to each other on a visceral level.” And for Dorfman, communicating with others starts at the beginning, by understanding and exploring her own place in the world – as the child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants.

The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth UniversityDorfman’s parents survived the Holocaust. Their story has been a powerful example for her, as both person and artist. The ability of her mother and father to reclaim life after the horrors of the Holocaust inspired her from the beginning. As Dorfman puts it, “the survivors have this ability to fall, endure and rise again. And that’s an incredible legacy to leave.”

I spoke to Dorfman by phone at the hospital, where she was visiting with her mother, now 94. She was only 15 when the Nazis turned her world upside down. Yet not only did she survive, she thrived, even after witnessing unspeakable horrors.

What gave her this strength? Dorfman turned to her mother and asked her this question directly. “Because I didn’t want the Nazis to win!” she replied. “Dying here would have given them another victory.”

Dorfman grew up in a home full of Eastern European traditions, and in a community where she heard stories from an entire generation of survivors. Her work as a choreographer is rooted in her experience as a second generation American, yet it transcends her own individual situation.

“It’s really the story of us all,” she says. “You give an authentic story and people can step into it and find themselves. Art is an incredible window, because there’s room for interpretation.”

Dorfman’s dances focusing on the Jewish experience are loosely grouped in an ongoing series called “The Legacy Project,” including “Tikkun,” “Silent Echoes,” “Echad” and more. Each is an independent work, linked by the theme of the Jewish experience and its ongoing meaning in today’s world.

The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth University

On February 25, Dorfman’s company of 11 dancers will perform “The Legacy Project: A Dance of Hope” at Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre. This performance will feature excerpts from “Mayne Mentshn” (My People) including “The Klezmer Sketch,” “American Dream” and “Cat’s Cradle.” Viewers will go on a journey from the old world through WWII, then forward to a new country and a new life. Dorfman describes these dances as honoring where we come from and our uniqueness, while still recognizing that we become part of a larger whole in a new world. In sum, these dances are about the immigrant experience that connects so many of us here in America.

The performance at Monmouth University on Sunday, February 25 at 4 pm will be narrated by Dorfman herself. She often uses projections and the spoken word in connection with music and dance to engage audiences on multiple levels, giving them a richer experience.

A companion exhibit of work by Jacob Landau and a circle of friends influenced by his vision will also be on display. Landau was an artist based in Roosevelt, N.J. who died in 2001. As a very young choreographer, Dorfman and Landau became close friends after meeting at the Artist Teacher Institute. Both were humanists, putting the centrality of the human experience first and foremost.

The Legacy of Hope: Carolyn Dorfman Dance at Monmouth University

“The Legacy Project: A Dance of Hope” and “Jacob Landau and His Circle” are both part of the Jewish Cultural Studies Program at Monmouth University. For more information, and to buy tickets, visit the Monmouth University Center for the Arts.




About the author: Susan Wallner is a principal of PCK Media, an independent production company. She is the co-series producer of the public television program 'State of the Arts,' a job that has introduced her to a wealth of talent and artistic diversity over the years. Susan's documentaries and performance specials have aired nationally. Most recently, her profile of the writer, aviator and celebrity, 'Anne Morrow Lindbergh: You’ll Have the Sky,' won the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for Best Feature Writing (it was Susan's 15th regional Emmy win). Narrated by Judith Light and Lily Rabe, it aired throughout the country on PBS and PBS World, and is available on DVD. Currently, Susan is working on a documentary about the self-taught city planner, builder, and artist, Kea Tawana.

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.






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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

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