Finding the balance between life and dance

Dorfman in his 2013 piece
Come, and Back Again

Take a look at David Dorfman’s agenda and you might start to feel inadequate. When he’s not chairing Connecticut College’s dance department or rehearsing with his own company, you might find him sitting down to dinner with his wife (fellow Connecticut College faculty member Lisa Race) and 12-year-old son—or else he’ll be practicing the accordion or saxophone or teaching himself to play the guitar. Throw in his upcoming State Department–sponsored and Brooklyn Academy of Music–produced DanceMotion USA tour to Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, where he and his company will hold workshops, outreach events and performances, and you’ll realize you’re either dealing with a madman or a magician.

Dorfman is neither, though you could argue that his ability to create explosive, floor-pummeling dances that also manage to give your heartstrings a good tug is a form of magic. Full of infectious joy at his good fortune, he sees the excitement that awaits him in each new opportunity and uses that to catapult himself from one project to the next. And now, with his monthlong DanceMotion tour, he’s got the chance to spread that enthusiasm around—with an added bonus: This summer, Dorfman will welcome one dance company from his travels to join his own dancers in the U.S. for artistic exchange, ending with a week of collaboration and performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in August.

The real objective behind his DanceMotion USA tour: “We’re taking eight dancers, me as artistic director, a technical director and then a tour manager—it’s quite an entourage. We’re very interested in learning what dance exists in these countries. There’s more than what we can find on YouTube. In the past, I’ve referred to what dancers do as kinetic diplomacy, and I think that’s at the heart of what the State Department is inviting us to do. It’s really cultural exchange.”

About his course load at CC: “I just taught a general-education dance course for folks who have never danced before, dubbed ‘Movers and Shakers.’ I had them doing tendus and singing David Bowie songs with our live band at our little showing. It brought me back to my roots in dancing—I took my first class as a junior in college. I had a blast.”

Why he won’t give any of it up: “It’s exciting, taxing and rewarding. I get to mingle with different age groups. In college, they’re usually 17 to 22 years old, and they’re just committing to dance or flirting with dance. I’m really attached to that nurturing process, and their fresh ideas are really inspiring. And then I get to work with folks in their mid-20s and 30s in our dance company, and that’s a different sense of collaboration. Then I get to go home and hear what’s going on in math class with my 12-year-old.” DT

Education: BS in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis; MFA, Connecticut College

Career: danced with Susan Marshall & Company; founded David Dorfman Dance in 1985

Teaching credits: professor and chair of the dance department at Connecticut College

Photo by Ian Douglas, courtesy of Lauren Morrow

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

Finding a male dance instructor who isn't booked solid can be a challenge, which is why a New York City dance educator was inspired to start a network of male dance professionals in 2012. Since then, he's tripled his roster of teachers and is actively hiring.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Courtesy of Shawl-Anderson Dance Center

For seven decades, Frank Shawl's bright and kind spirit touched thousands of dancers in the studio and in the audience.

After dancing professionally in New York City and with the May O'Donnell Dance Company, Shawl moved with Victor Anderson to the San Francisco Bay Area and founded Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in 1958. It is the longest running arts organization in Berkeley.

The two ran their own company for 15 years and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center became a home for dance for students and artists alike. It currently runs 120 classes and workshops every week for children and adults, plus artist residencies, rehearsal space and intimate performances. (If you have never visited, the Center is actually a large house converted into four studio spaces.)

Shawl taught modern classes at the studio until 1990, performed into his late 70s and took classes at the Center into his mid 80s.

As I simultaneously mourn and honor Frank—my dear friend, fellow dancer, mentor and boss—I reflect on a few lessons that I learned from him. These five ideas relate to our various roles in dance as students, performers, teachers and administrators.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Getty Images

Halloween is just a few weeks away, which means it's officially time to start prepping your fabulously spooky costumes! Skip the classic witch, unicorn and superhero outfits, and trade them in for some ghosts of dance legends past. Wear your costumes to class, and use them as a way to teach a dance history lesson, or ask your students to dress up as their favorite dancer from history, and perform a few eight counts of their most famous repertoire during class. Your students will absolutely love it, and you'll be able to get in some real educating despite the distraction of the holiday!

Check out some ideas we had for who might be a good fit. We can't wait to see who you all dress up as!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Photo by Sedge Leblang, courtesy of Dance Magazine Archives

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At 8, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle at with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

You've got the teaching talent, the years of experience, the space and the passion—now all you need are some students!

Here are six ideas for getting the word out about your fabulous, up-and-coming program! We simply can't wait to see all the talent you produce with it!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Kim Black

For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo via @igor.pastor on Instagram

Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

You're welcome! Now, you can thank us by sharing some of your own frappé favs on social media with the hashtag #nationalfrappeday.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox