Carolyn Dorfman
Carolyn Dorfman (Whitney Browne)

The event is part of the series “Conversations: Bringing the World Into Your Living Room” and will feature Dr. Allen Maniker interviewing Carolyn Dorfman, choreographer and founding artistic director of Carolyn Dorfman Dance, based in New Jersey.

Two Southfield-raised representatives of the professional dance world — one who formed a dance company and the other who transitioned into neurosurgery — will discuss the art of dance during a digital program arranged by the Jewish Community Center (JCC). 

The event is part of the series “Conversations: Bringing the World Into Your Living Room” and will feature Dr. Allen Maniker interviewing Carolyn Dorfman, choreographer and founding artistic director of Carolyn Dorfman Dance, based in New Jersey. The presentation begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, and recalls some of the doctor’s earlier stage credits.

“I want to talk about how one develops a career as a professional choreographer,” said Maniker, now a New Yorker. He previously danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in the city and the Israeli Bat-Dor Dance Company, closed afte almost 40 years. 

“I will ask about the problems and difficulties of maintaining a professional dance company and what she has seen as problematic in returning to creative work in this time of pandemic,” he told the JN.

Maniker and Dorfman, who attended Southfield High School at the same time, recall sharing stage experiences as they worked on the musical Camelot — she as choreographer and he as a cast member. While her early dance lessons were with Julie Adler, his were with Harriet Berg at the JCC. 

Both went on to the University of Michigan, where Maniker double majored in dance and pre-med. After one year, he transferred to Juilliard, earning a degree in dance and continuing in the field until deciding, in the 1980s, to work toward a medical degree.

Dorfman earned a bachelor’s degree in dance from U-M and a master’s from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. In discussing the focus of her company, which is now in its 37th year, she points to the connectivity of the art form — physical connection, connection between artists and connection between the artist and the audience. 

“I am interested in communicating,” said Dorfman, currently giving attention to social justice issues with a troupe of 10 that has toured internationally. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “I had to learn how to attempt to break barriers on the screen.”

The choreographer has used the digital medium for both performances and instruction and hopes to show excerpts during the upcoming broadcast. 

“I have been into technology for a very long time,” said Dorfman, the daughter of Holocaust survivors who motivated her development of pieces that reflect Jewish heritage. “We learned how to create on Zoom and make an artistic entity. 

“We have created curriculum that we’re licensing to a school district and produced lectures. Some things are synchronous with students in the audience, and some things are asynchronous where I produce content sent somewhere and watched at leisure.”

Dorfman said she feels a lot of pride for the dancers in her company, especially during the pandemic when one has been coping with COVID-19 — and all show resilience. 

Maniker, retired as chairman of neurosurgery at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, credits Dorfman with motivating him toward a dance career, which he pursued through age 26. 

Maniker continues active interest in dance as board chairman of the Steps Beyond Foundation, associated with Steps on Broadway, a dance studio in New York City. To foster continuing education, he moderates panel discussions and planned a lecture-demonstration about ballet for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he is a docent.

Knowledge of his New York programming led to establishing “Conversations,” which has featured Met curator Kathryn Calley Galitz and will introduce Alicia Graf Mack, Juilliard Dance Division director, on Sept. 10.

“Plus, I’m a performer,” Maniker said. “And these ‘Conversations’ are performances.”   Carolyn Dorfman

To access information about “Conversations” programming — and learn more about the dance discussion beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 — go to culturalarts.jcc.org. 

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