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Professor's dance company enjoys NYC limelight

Raja Kelly '09 (center) and other members of David Dorfman Dance perform
Raja Kelly '09 (center) and other members of David Dorfman Dance perform "Prophets of Funk." (Photo by Lauren Owens.)

Professor David Dorfman, a 1981 graduate of Connecticut College and chair of the dance department, has long been an influential figure in modern dance. And this week, his company, David Dorfman Dance, is enjoying the bright lights of New York City with performances of "Prophets of Funk" at the Joyce Theater.

This week's 'can't miss' arts listing in the New York Times features a five-column, full-color photo of dancer Raja Kelly '09 and other members of the company performing in full disco attire. The caption encourages people to "find joy in the muck, mess and funk of life," with performances today and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday at 8 p.m. Additional shows are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The performances were also previewed prominently in The New Yorker.

"Prophets of Funk," which premiered at Connecticut College in February of 2011 as part of the onStage at Connecticut College series, celebrates the groundbreaking, visceral and powerful music of Sly and the Family Stone, a funk and soul band from the 1960s and '70s.

"Sly and the Family Stone was one of the first racially and gender-integrated bands in American music history and a solid purveyor of social consciousness," said Dorfman. "'Prophets of Funk' lifts up the spirit of Sly: that in the face of the funk of life, there are still hopes and aspirations that reside in all of us."

Kelly, who majored in dance and English at Connecticut College, plays the role of "Sly" in the performance. He joined David Dorfman Dance immediately after graduation.

"You could say I've had my eye on his artistry since he auditioned for our dance program," Dorfman said of Kelly. "He looks and acts so much like Sly that many double takes have been taken as we've developed and performed this dance all over the country."

Founded in 1985, David Dorfman Dance has performed extensively in New York City and throughout the world. The company and its dancers and artistic collaborators have been honored with eight New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") awards.

In 2007, David Dorfman Dance was named permanent company-in-residence at Connecticut College. The company spends four weeks a year on campus rehearsing, teaching and hosting workshops for students and the general public.

David Kyuman Kim, associate professor of religious studies at Connecticut College and scholar-in-residence for David Dorfman Dance, served as a creative consultant during the creation of "Prophets of Funk." Kim and Dorfman co-teach a course, "Religious Expressions of Everyday Life," that focuses on many of the concepts explored in "Prophets of Funk."

In other dance news, the department will host the American College Dance Festival Association's New England Conference Feb. 8-11. The public is invited to attend the opening night performance on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and the Gala performance on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Please call the Palmer Auditorium Box Office at 860-439-ARTS for tickets.

January 24, 2012