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Creativity Heals: Defying predictions through dance

"Movement is necessary.” The statement jumps out on the David Dorfman Dance website homepage. David Dorfman, the internationally known dancer and artistic director of David Dorfman Dance who makes New London his home, has a theory about movement and creativity as a critical, healthful and healing part of daily life.

Dorfman did not start out to be a dancer. Rather, dance found him. After graduating from business school, Dorfman, who had always been physically active with sports in school, took community dance classes to fill time after work.

Dance hooked him. He decided to return to school, getting a masters in dance at Connecticut College. He then founded David Dorfman Dance in New York City in 1987 and toured internationally.

Dorfman returned to Connecticut College in 2004, when he joined the dance department as a professor.

It has taken a career for Dorfman to arrive at his philosophy.

“What to wear, what to eat, navigating your day,” he said. “It’s all creative. Moving, making art. Doing it every day will heal and inspire.”

There is a deeper story, though, as to the special place movement and dance hold in Dorfman’s heart, and where his theories on its healing nature stem from.

Dorfman’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was in high school. He has memories of her failing — and falling. Dorfman is aware of the imprint that one particular fall and getting back up made in his mind, an image that can be seen repeatedly in his choreography.

Years later, Dorfman was performing a solo dance piece on Martha’s Vineyard. His mother, who was wheelchair-bound by this time, was able to see the performance. At a post-show party, there was music and dancing. His mother was so moved that, without thinking, she stood up and took three steps.

“Through dance and music, the body can defy our predictions,” said Dorfman.

With the events of this past year, Dorfman, who recognizes that he has had the privilege of living as a cis white male, feels it is more important than ever to demystify creativity and artistic pursuits. He is passionate about providing access to dance, the arts and creative activities to all people.

“Everyone is creating all the time,” said Dorfman. As a result of the pandemic, people have taken to creating and trying new things. As a teacher, Dorfman is in a position to reinforce this point whenever he has the opportunity.

“The sublime and the mundane are both parts of living. We all have so much creative potential.” said Dorfman.

As Dorfman’s work shows us, it can also be a part of everyday creativity and healing.

Emma Palzere-Rae is Associate Director for Artreach, Inc. and founder of Be Well Productions. If you have a story about how creativity has helped you heal, please contact emma.artreachheals@gmail.com.

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