David Dorfman’s Come, and Back Again is an earnest – occasionally too earnest – and authentic exploration of Mr Dorfman’s own fears of mortality and mess. Mr Dorfman presents a well-integrated whole, with a whitewashed junkyard set; video projection monologues; a live, onstage band; and a dance space that seemed to encourage straight-from-the-heart confessions and freewheeling movement. It was easy to observe the heft and weight of Mr Dorfman’s heart in this piece, but so much honesty and openness periodically felt a bit cloying.

Come, and Back Again (Dancers: Kendra Portier and Raja Kelly) © Ian Douglas
Come, and Back Again (Dancers: Kendra Portier and Raja Kelly)
© Ian Douglas

It is a true pleasure to watch Mr Dorfman perform. He has assembled a clearly talented group of dancers – particularly the long-hamstringed Karl Rogers and the eternally serene Whitney Tucker – but I unquestioningly preferred to keep my eyes on Mr Dorfman. It is as if I got to see the movement in its purest, most distilled form. The most compelling moment of the piece occurred when Mr Dorfman began flapping his arms up and down rapidly, musing aloud that to continue doing so for the rest of his life could be both a good thing and a bad thing. The simplicity of this monologue felt more genuine than Mr Rogers and Raja Kelly’s later dialogue about grandmothers in the same downstage spot.

Mr Dorfman’s movement is wonderfully fluid and seems to have a singular resiliency: The dancers hit the ground only to bound up once more, higher and more energized, as if they had found some secret energy source in the floor. Ms Tucker circled Mr Kelly and then pounced on him like the lightest of cats, again and again, and Mr Kelly fell just as softly to the floor. Though there was a bit too much grinning throughout, I enjoyed the section in which each of the dancers got a moment to improvise with Mr Dorfman in the center of the stage, despite imminent predictability. I had more trouble digesting the haphazardness of the unison movement. Though I appreciate Mr Dorfman’s decision to let each of his dancers perform uniquely, I felt moments of frustration when the movement, translated to five different bodies in five entirely different ways, could no longer be definitively thought of as either unison dancing or a canon. It gave the piece an air of too little rehearsal, though I know this wasn’t the case.

Despite moments of complete saccharine – the inclusion of Mr Dorfman’s wife and child in the piece – I cannot deny that this piece has incredible heart. At the beginning, Mr Dorfman via video projection informs the audience matter-of-factly that he has a problem getting rid of plastic bags. He wants to clean up his mess, he says, the way his own father cleaned up his “mess” before he died. But Mr Dorfman intelligently also realizes that certain messes are necessary to leave behind. His forthrightness in approaching a squeamish subject is admirable, and I am sure it is the reason why so many in the audience found his thoughts resonating in their own minds.

****1