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DAY IN THE LIFE OF DANCE: Carolyn Dorfman on Celebrating 40 Years of Dance Making

DAY IN THE LIFE OF DANCE: Carolyn Dorfman on Celebrating 40 Years of Dance Making
Kristen Hedberg/ IG @kristen.hedberg

By Kristen Hedberg/ IG @kristen.hedberg
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Published on June 11, 2024
Carolyn Dorfman. Photo: Whitney Browne

Catch "Celebrate 40/NYC" at the Ailey Citigroup Theater on June 12-13, 2024

WHO: Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company

WHAT: The Company's "Celebrate 40/NYC"

TICKETS: Visit Eventbrite

Carolyn Dorfman Dance company members: Kayleigh Bowen, Tyler Choquette, Dominique Dobransky, Hannah Gross, Maiko Harada, Brandon Jones, Jacob Kurihara (Performing Apprentice), Aanyse Pettiford Chandler, Charles Scheland, Jen Silver (Performing Apprentice), Jared Stern, and Andréa Ward
Featured collaborators in "Celebrate 40/NYC": Charlotte Blake Alston, Horacee Arnold, Russell Aubrey, Anna Alisa Belous, Svjetlana Bukvich, Kate Freer, Bente Kahan, Pete List, Dave Tennant, Greg Wall and Neal Woodson

Says Kristen Hedberg, for The Dance Enthusiast: "When asked to describe Carolyn Dorfman, I think of her belief in humanity, her openness, and her commitment to communication. Through her internationally acclaimed company, Carolyn Dorfman Dance (CDD), Dorfman combines these values with her passion for creating dance works and educational programs.

On Wednesday, June 12th and Thursday, 13th 2024, CDD will celebrate its forty-year anniversary at The Ailey Citigroup Theater with Celebrate 40/NYC. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dorfman as she looks ahead to this milestone performance. We talked about her background, creative process, collaborators, and inspirations, as well as the exciting anniversary program that's not to be missed. 


A native of the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Carolyn Dorfman grew up with great appreciation for family and community. Being the child of Holocaust survivors who immigrated here from Poland deeply influenced her. In fact she says,“There is no more defining element that has shaped every facet of who I am, my sense of justice, equality, and respect for each individual human being.”

carolyn dorfman dressed in a white silky pant suit and jacket strikes an arabesque against a white background. she looks to her foot as if being called by someone

Carolyn Dorfman in The White Waltz by Barbara Hayley. Photo: Lois Greenfield

After witnessing a performance of Doris Humphrey’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor (1938) while an undergrad student in dance at the University of Michigan, Dorfman recalls feeling blown away.

“The architecture of the opening, the ensemble work, and the breath phrasing… This whole idea of individual and community… It fed a deeper place within me. I knew that was what I wanted to do, that this was my path. I said to myself, ‘I am going to forge a path in dance that feeds the whole human being.’”

From the company’s inception and to this day, Dorfman maintains an open dialogue with her dancers. “Dance is a conversation, both as a performer with the audience, but also as a choreographer [with dancers]. “I was never the choreographer who was alone in the studio,” says Dorfman. “Dance is a communal art form, the process is thinking and breathing, It’s dynamic. I want to create a space and a work process that honors the individual artists in the room with a deep respect — where they can come together for a larger vision without losing who they are.”

CDD’s rich history of conversation and collaboration with artists of many mediums will be highlighted in the upcoming anniversary program. “I am a collaborator at heart,” Dorfman explains.“I am changed by every collaborator I work with, and they are changed by me…and always, whether it be music, a soundscape, sets, unique lighting, video, spoken word, props… they create the worlds.

a company of dancers in white and grey maniputlate a gigantic silver wheel while three of their peers joyfully dance in front of them
Carolyn Dorfman Dance in Carolyn Dorfman’s ECHAD. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Celebrate 40/NYC  speaks to the explorations Dorfman has made over forty years of creating worlds through dance. Divided thematically, into four sections with one intermission, audiences will experience excerpts of loved repertory as well as two NYC premieres. While Act 1 focuses on the individual within the community,  Act Two explores the individual and to relationships. Act Three, says Dorfman, “speaks to  my Eastern European, Jewish roots, being a child of Holocaust survivors and a daughter of immigrants. It dawned on me that this is why the movement of Humphrey and Limón resonated with me. The sense of breath and recovery, the sense of living in the more dangerous ways of space and being able to control, recover, breathe and fly… It is what survivors do. All survivors.”

a group of five dancers dressed in blue leggings and blue toned tops stare at us as they perform an energetic kick to their sides with a bent arm grabs the extended leg or almost does as the other arm flies to its side.

Carolyn Dorfman Dance in Juel D. Lane’s NOW. Photo: Whitney Browne

The program concludes with the driving, beautiful, NOW! (2021) by Juel D. Lane, who, known for his stellar dance work with Camille A. Brown and Dancers, began his career with CDD. It will be followed by Dorfman’s newest work, The Attitude of Doing (2022), which features music by acclaimed jazz violinist Regina Carter. When speaking about The Attitude of Doing, Carolyn shares, “I selected songs from Regina Carter’s canon of music which I felt take the audience on a traveling journey of life and love.”

three couples and one solo dancer dressed in purples and shades of red extend their forearms to the side in reaction to someone of something

Carolyn Dorfman Dance in Carolyn Dorfman’s The Attitude of Doing. Photo: Whitney Browne

As our conversation drew to an end, Dorfman shared her overview of this marker of forty years  “This celebration is about the people…the human beings that I’ve been privileged to work with. Those who create, shape, and propel… and all of the people who have stayed with us, connected to and committed to us... Ultimately we are celebrating community, possibility, and hope.  When my mother, who passed away at almost 99-years-old, was asked what got her through the war, she said she never lost hope. I will tell you in these darkest of times right now, in this country and the world, I try to remember that.”

The Dance Enthusiast’s DAY IN THE LIFE covers the stories behind dance/performance and creates conversation. For more behind-the-scenes stories from NYC and beyond, click here.

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