Ancient Steps, Forward Glances

Choreography by guest artists David Dorfman, BRM. Bambang Irwan, Noor Farida Rahmalina, and faculty Jessica Fogel and Peter Sparling
Poster design by CAP Designs

January 31, February 1 & 2 at 8 PM
February 3 at 2 PM
Power Center

background | newsletter | press release | program | photographs

Background Information
David Dorfman
David Dorfman, a native of Chicago, has been honored with four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is also the recipient of two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, an American Choreographer's Award, the first Paul Taylor Fellowship from The Yard, and a 1996 New York Dance & Performance Award ("Bessie") for David Dorfman Dance's community-based project Familiar Movements.

Mr. Dorfman's choreography has been produced in New York City at venues ranging from The Joyce Theater to The Kitchen, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project/St. Mark's Church, P.S. 122, Dancing in the Streets, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. His work has been commissioned widely in the U.S. and in Europe, most recently by the American Dance Festival, through the Doris Duke Awards for New Work, and by the African American Dance Ensemble, both in Durham, North Carolina and Ballethnic Dance Company of Atlanta. An avid fan of collaboration and collective processes, Mr. Dorfman has toured an evening of solos and duets, Live Sax Acts, with friend and collaborator Dan Froot, and a half-evening duet, Menne Awn Frauen, created with longtime colleague and friend Stuart Pimsler.

Mr. Dorfman has been guest artist at numerous institutions across the country and abroad, including the American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Dansens Hus (Copenhagen), Scottish Youth Dance (Edinburgh), Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle), Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, the Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, New York Univ., Williams College, and St. Olaf College. As a performer, he has toured internationally with Kei Takei's Moving Earth and Susan Marshall & Company. Mr. Dorfman holds an MFA in dance from Connecticut College and a BS in business administration from Washington Univ., St. Louis.

Bambang Irawan and Noor Farida Rahmalina
From the ancient Javanese royal court of Surakarta, dancer-choreographers Bambang Irawan and Noor Rahmalina perform both classical Javanese court dance and the exciting contemporary dance forms emerging from present day Indonesia. As 2001's Distinguished Artists in Residence for the International Institute, they will create an original dance work for the University of Michigan dance company, accompanied by the evocative gongs and metallaphones of the university gamelan ensemble.

Bambang Irawan and his wife, Noor Farida Rahmalina are among the most highly accomplished and respected classical Javanese dancers of present day Indonesia They are the principle dancers in the ancient Javanese royal court of Surakarta, Central Java. Both have performed extensively across Java, Europe, Japan and the United States.

Bambang Irawan is also an accomplished gamelan musician as well as a dancer. He is currently on the teaching staff in the Economics Department of Sebelas MAret University in Surakarta City, Indonesia, where his academic specialty concerns cultural tourism. A member of the royal family, Bambang Irawan was raised in the palace of the Susuhunan of Surakarta where he was trained by the foremost traditional court artists in the classical Javanese performing arts since early childhood. Although he is best known as a dancer, he is, in accordance with established Javanese practice, also well trained as a choreographer and musician. He is experienced at both solo and ensemble performances, and is particularly noted for his interpretation of the classical Klana mask dance, a dance that is considered best to display the technical virtuosity of male classical dance.

Noor Farida Rahmalina is the principle dancer in the Javanese king's sacred bedhaya troupe. In 1992 she won first prize for female classical dance in central Java, and in 1995 she won first prize in classical dance at the national Indonesian Classical Dancing Festival. In addition to being the leading female performer of classical Javanese dance, she is also accomplished in Balinese dance. Noor Farida Rahmalina also trained in the palace from childhood. She became a member of the Surakarta Palace troupe when she was fourteen years old, and is now the principal female dancer at court.

Both Bambang and Lina have experience in contemporary dance performance; both have been long time members in the troupe of the internationally renowned Indonesian choreographer, Sardono W. Kusuma. In addition to their classical training and experience, Bambang Irawan and Noor Farida Rahmalina also have extensive experience in the Sendratari, a twentieth century art form which combines elements of traditional and modern Javanese dance styles and blends the arts of music, dance, and theater.

Jessica Fogel
Jessica Fogel will choreograph a suite of short dances inspired by images of female power as depicted by Renaissance and Baroque painters. Drawing parallels to our own time, Fogel will examine some of the ways in which female typesÑwoman as virgin, matron, warrior, goddess, heroine, seductressÑare manipulated and portrayed in Western iconography. The dance will be created in conjunction with the University of Michigan Museum of Art's Exhibit: "Women at the Top: Images of Female Power, 1500-1650".

Jessica Fogel has had choreography produced nationally and internationally since 1974. She spent a decade in New York City as a performer, choreographer and teacher, and was artistic director of Jessica Fogel and Dancers there from 1978-1982. During that time, she danced with several companies, including Phoebe Neville, Hannah Kahn, Janet Soares and Andrew DeGroat. She taught at SUNY Brockport and the University of Rochester before joining the Michigan faculty in 1985. Her works have been commissioned and produced by Dance Theater Workshop, the Riverside Dance Festival, Lincoln Center, The Yard, Harbinger Dance Company and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, among others. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Council for the Arts, and the Cultural Council Foundation of New York. Ms. Fogel is a founding member of Ann Arbor Dance Works. She is the recipient of the Michigan Choreographer's Festival Award and an Award of Excellence from the National Fine Arts Video Competition. In recent years she has performed and taught in Japan, Greece, Ireland and Mexico. She received a B.A. in Dance from Barnard College and an M.A. in Dance Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jessica's previous works for the Department of Dance include "North of Here" (1998), "Serioso, now and then" (1997), "Save Changes Before Quitting" (1995) and "Dance for Eighteen" (1993).

Peter Sparling
To Bach's stunningly regal Sonata No .3 for Unaccompanied Violin, Peter Sparling's "Patient Spider" spins patterns of intimate solo passages, fugues, and group counterpoint against fleeting images of disintegrating film, live video relay and subtle stage lighting. A cast of dancers on screen-- relayed live from the U/M Media Union video Studio via Internet 2--joins in multiple harmony or perfect consonance as a mirroring counterpart to their colleagues on stage.

Peter Sparling, Professor of Dance is artistic director of the Ann Arbor-based Peter Sparling Dance Company. He danced with the Jose Limon Dance Company from 1971 to 1973, and as a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1973 to 1987 to which he returns often to perform, coach, and teach. As a regisseur of the Martha Graham Trust, he stages Graham's works on his own company and on companies all over the world. Mr. Sparling presented his own company and solo performance, "Solo Flight", for five successive seasons at New York's Riverside Dance Festival. He has held residencies at the American Damce Festival, at numerous American universities, and in London, Australia, Portugal, and Taiwan. He is a recipient of the 1998 Governor's Michigan Artist Award, and of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the Arts Foundation of Michigan. He has worked extensively with composers, actors, visual artists and scientists to create collaborative performance works. He has also written texts for performance and has been published in the Michigan Quarterly Review.

Peter's previous works for the Department of Dance include "The Delirium Waltz" (1999), "Unfinished" (1997), "The Pursuit of Happiness" (1995) and "Mas Fuerte" and "Prelude to 'Mosern Life'" (1993).

David Dorfman - Mixing Comedy and Dance
David Dorfman of David Dorfman Dance has been hailed by New York Times columnist Jennifer Dunning as both a "choreographer who can lift the spirit with luscious rollicking movement," and also one who delivers "dark dances with a powerful punch." Dorfman, a Chicago native who is both a musician and an athlete, came to dance relatively late in life. After earning a bachelor's degree in business administration, he earned his M.F.A. in dance from Connecticut College before forming David Dorfman Dance in 1985. Dorfman, who has said "I've always had the chutzpah to think that what I'm feeling is important enough to try to share with people," uses his work to counter the ideas that dancers have to look graceful or move gracefully. Instead, his movement tends to be rough-and-tumble, full of surprising lifts, collisions, and sports-based imagery. Dorfman's undeniably quirky style blends text, movement, and music and invites his audiences to laugh at themselves and consider the nature of humanity. Still, each of his works remains uncannily moving, tackling themes of affection and intimacy.

Dorfman prides himself on the accessibility of his work and has collaborated since the beginning of his career with non-dancers. He has worked with inner-city young people in Miami, athletes, families, computer technicians, stockbrokers, and battered women. Dorfman is fascinated by the way non-dancers express themselves in movement and the emotions and ideas that spring from them as they do. He uses his non-dancers' everyday activities and emotions to drive his own choreography. Dorfman explores everything from male bonding rituals, to romantic relationships, to working in corporate America. His desire to "communicate something to an audience, to inspire them to take a moment and experience with me their lives" is the very reason Jennifer Dunning intuits that Dorfman is "after something big, the themes, perhaps of life and death, and human interaction that he handles so concisely."

The Exotic Style of Javanese Dance
You'll never forget this year's dance concert and the work of Bambang Irawan and Noor Rahmalina, two of the most accomplished classical Javanese dancers of present-day Indonesia. Trained since childhood by the foremost traditional court artists in classical Javanese performing arts, they are the principal dancers in the ancient Javanese royal court of Surakarta, Central Java. Both have performed extensively across Java, Europe, Japan, and the United States.

Javanese dance was first seen in the central Java's Borobudur Temple, one of the seven wonders of the world, and dates as far back as the eighth century. It is known for its elaborate, colorful masks and costumes, as well as for being performed to the music of a gamelan, a type of orchestra found in Southeast Asia. Although they include string and woodwind instruments, gamelans are also notable for using a wide range of percussion – gongs, drums, chimes, marimbas, etc. The gamelan's magical sound frequently represents sea wind and other natural sounds. It is said to induce a holy state in both the body and soul of the performers and audience alike.

Javanese dance began as court ritual, but later evolved into extravagant shows designed solely as entertainment. In the last few decades, the dance has also been used to tell stories inspired by modern events, as well as stories of love and war, good moral behavior, or magical power. All dances, despite their seemingly effortless beauty, are highly technical and must be performed with the help of lengthy meditation and years of training in traditional schools with master teachers.

Bambang Irawan is renowned for his interpretation of the classical Klana mask dance, a dance style known for highlighting the technical virtuosity of a male dancer. Noor Rahmalina became a member of the Surakarta Palace troupe when she was 14 years old. Both dancers are known for using sendratari (literally art-drama-dance), a 20th-century art form which draws on ancient Indian epics (the Ramayana and the Mahabarata) for its themes, but presents them in a uniquely Javanese style. The power of myth, the timeless beauty of Javanese dance, and the incredible skill and athleticism of these dancers will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Press Release

ANN ARBOR – The University of Michigan's Dance Company presents an evening of modern dance flavored by traditional performance in "Ancient Steps, Forward Glances". As the show's title implies, the common thread in the concert's four pieces is history. It is the history of time-honored dances giving way to new movement. It is the history of a society coping with its own development and morality. Choreographed by two guest artists and two faculty members, performances are scheduled January 31 through February 2, 8:00 p.m., and February 3, 2:00 p.m., at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in Ann Arbor.

About the program:

Visiting artist David Dorfman is one of the world's most successful post modern choreographers. He is the recipient of numerous awards including two New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships and an American Choreographer's Award. Dorfman is known for his collaborative approach to creating dances. He choreographs by learning his dancers' personalities, then he incorporates their moods, attitudes, even their words into his work. By combining these elements with his own vision, he creates a finished product that is reflective of the world in which his performers live.

This is certainly the case with his UM commissioned dance "Depth Charge." Dorfman's first meeting with his dancers at the UM was on the afternoon of September 11. A New Yorker himself, Mr. Dorfman was abuzz with emotions that day. He admits that he used the destruction of the World Trade Center as a guide when he was establishing the mood of the dance. For him, choreographing became a way not only to mourn, but also to celebrate. While he was devastated by the loss of life and the familiar New York City landmarks, he was also grateful that he had heard from a friend who was in the building and escaped unhurt. He was additionally comforted to know that his family was safe and that, in one way or another, life had gone on.

The piece reflects all of these emotions. "Depth Charge" is about turning back time. It questions where people think they will be in the future. It examines how violent we are, while at the same time recognizing our potential for compassion. The dance features 19 dancers and an original electronic score by UM music student Chris Peck. Peck worked with Dorfman at last summer's prestigious American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, and was commissioned to create original music for this performance. The music will be performed live during the concert by Peck on a variety of electronic instruments and computers with the assistance of UM music professor Stephen Rush.

Artists-in-residence Bambang Irawan and Noor Forida Rahmalina are two of the most accomplished classical Javanese dancers of present-day Indonesia. Brought to the UM by the School of

Music and the Center For World Performances, their original work, "World of Birds," combines ancient royal Javanese court dance with contemporary Indonesian movement. Javanese dance was first seen in the central Java's Borobudur Temple, one of the seven wonders of the world, as far back as the eighth century. While the art form began as a court ritual, it developed into a form of entertainment and storytelling. The guest choreographers' dance style is called sendratari (literally art-drama-dance), a twentieth-century art form which draws on ancient Indian epics for its themes, but presents them in a Javanese style. Their dance will be accompanied by the UM's Gamelan Ensemble, a group of performers that studies and performs on the gamelan instruments from the School of Music's Stearn's Collection.

The choreography of two UM Dance Department faculty members rounds out the evening. Peter Sparling, who is also artistic director of the Ann Arbor-based Peter Sparling Dance Company and a one-time principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company, presents "Patient Spider." Inspired by the Walt Whitman poem "A Noiseless Patient Spider" and danced to the Adagio and Fugue from Bach's 3rd Unaccompanied Sonata, BWV 1005, "Patient Spider" is actually reliant on technology. While a group of 13 dancers are on stage, four dancers will also perform on a video projection at the rear of the stage. Sparling explores the metaphor of Whitman's spider as his dancers explore their space, reaching and yearning for something new. Meanwhile, history gives way to the future as live and "virtual" bodies interact on stage and screen.

The remaining piece on the program is "Brave Souls," choreographed by Jessica Fogel. The dance draws inspiration from the UM Museum of Art's upcoming exhibition "Women Who Ruled: Queens, Goddesses, Amazons 1500-1650." The dance features slides from the February 17-May 5, 2002, exhibition and eight movements Fogel developed on subjects like art history, the Amazon, the archaeological discovery of female warrior graves in Kazakhstan, and questioning "what would make you kill or defend?" – which, like Dorfman's piece, was inspired by the World Trade Center disaster.

Ticket prices for "Ancient Steps, Forward Glances" are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $7 with ID. Tickets are available at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League on UM Central Campus. The Ticket Office is open from 10am-6pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted.

The Power Center for the Performing Arts, located at 121 Fletcher Street, is handicapped accessible and equipped with an infrared listening system for hearing enhancement.

Click here to view the Ancient Steps, Forward Glances program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

Patient Spider
choreography by Peter Sparling

Brave Souls
choreography by Jessica Fogel

World of Birds
choreography by BRM Bambang Irwan

Depth Charge
choreography by David Dorfman