Wednesday July 16, 2008 - Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company in collaboration with vocalist Bente Kahan (photo) presented ECHOES at Dance Theatre Workshop on West 19th Street tonight. It was my first visit to this theatre which is an excellent venue for chamber dance works. Ms. Dorfman's darkish work draws on themes from Jewish culture: the Holocaust and the echoes of that catastrophe down thru the following years.
The work opens with Ms. Kahan alone onstage and establishes her phenomenal vocal presence: a soulful, lamenting sound with a vast dynamic range. There follows a series of dances in which Ms. Kahan is heard both live and on recording interspersed with performances from an onstage trio of musicians. The Dorfman dancers move powerfully thru her flowing choreography laced with lifts and elements of folk dance; they sink to the floor as if weighted only to rise again, seeking light and life. There are moments when individual dancers step forth, but most of the time Dorfman's choreography focuses on the community and on preserving connections in the face of a destructive force beyond human comprehension. In the evening's most compelling segment, the dancers move against projections of old photographs of victims: small children wide-eyed with hope that will soon be extinguished and the elderly gazing back at us across the gulf of time.
The performance then evolves into a more 'dramatized' context. Ms. Kahan assumes a role which mixes a running monologue with her songs. The dancing remains evocative but I felt the evening beginning to veer a bit too much towards narrative and leaving less to the imagination. The power and colours of Ms. Kahan's singing and the dedication of the dancers never falter but the work seemed a bit less compelling as it moves to its conclusion. Tonya, Evan and I met up after the performance and were remarking that ECHOES would not be an easy work to write about - but Evan has managed to describe the evening so well here.
The Holocaust cannot be allowed to be forgotten and ECHOES serves to keep that period of darkness before us. What I found myself thinking on the long train ride home was: has the darkness really lifted? Sometimes when reading the current headlines it seems mankind has learned nothing.