David Dorfman performing in "Lightbulb Theory"

Why do I dance? I have to—I need to. To heal. To feel.

My mom was ill (MS). I danced, at times frantically, to encourage her to take a step. Once after seeing me dance, she walked a few relatively pain-free paces before her body remembered she couldn’t. I love those moments of inspiring others to do what they didn’t think they could. I’ve also danced so many times for my dad, who was secretly a performance artist at heart. I dance for loss with joy. I dance until I can’t. I am alive. I feel lucky.

When I told my mom at age 8 that I wanted to open a dance studio, James Brown was my idol, Soul Train, my visual bible. But the courage to enroll in formal training eluded me until I was a college junior. Two years later, I was introduced to Martha Myers and the late Daniel Nagrin, my “dance parents,” through Connecticut College and the American Dance Festival. Thanks to Martha’s wild directives and Daniel’s bold knee drops in performance at age 63, I propelled myself through an MFA at CC and then on to New York City.

I have always been interested in grassroots movements and the rights of the disenfranchised. If I hadn’t become a dancer, I think I would have been a social worker or therapist. I believe in the healing power of art—and dance in particular. I see the body as a political and emotional force. I love using mine as an expressive power. There is too much normalcy and puritanism in our culture; dance artists need to shake things up and enable people to see other possibilities for their bodies and lives.

Much of what I do artistically has the intent of being somewhat subversive or underground or alternative. It’s a dissenting voice that I’m interested in. I believe that we need to see the world in different ways. We can’t get stale—that is death. I want to pleasantly challenge an audience to leave the theater changed in some way. “Invite and indict,” I say. My company does this by being fluid, honest, muscular, funny, risky and frisky, using my motto of “sweet non-irony.” Courage has now found me; we can dance our lives out loud!

I love people. In the last year alone, my company has led workshops from Tennessee to Tajikistan, Alabama to Armenia, with folks in mental health facilities and senior homes, with young dance professionals and sublimely mundane dance doubters. To get the whole world dancing is my form of kinetic diplomacy. A Soul Train line is one incredible universal language!

Latest Posts

Luc Delahaye, Courtesy Gordon & Setterfield

Dance Magazine Award Honorees: David Gordon & Valda Setterfield

How to frame two lifetimes of work as broad and vibrant as that of choreographer David Gordon and performer Valda Setterfield? When onstage together, an invisible tether connects them, whether they're kibitzing, chiding, flirting or embracing a sense of melancholy.

Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Stella Abrera in Alexei Ratmansky's The Seasons. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

Stella Abrera to Take on New Role as Artistic Director of Kaatsbaan

Yesterday, Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, NY-based cultural park for dance, announced that Stella Abrera will join the organization as its new artistic director, effective January 1. This news come just weeks after we learned that Abrera will be taking her final bow with American Ballet Theatre in June.

Enter Our Video Contest