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A New York City subway train approaches the Atlantic Ave. station in Brooklyn. People mull about; it’s a pretty standard scene. But then Dance Professor David Dorfman ’81 emerges from the back of the station, dancing, leaping and spinning around and among surprised commuters.
It’s the opening scene of “And So Say All of Us,” a nearly 10-minute video featuring 52 of the world’s greatest contemporary choreographers, which this week caught the attention of The Washington Post’s dance critic, Sarah L. Kaufman.
“Think of the video as … a chain letter in dance, with each performer taking up where the last left off. A chain of delight,” Kaufman wrote.
“It’s also an answer to the catchy, youthful dances typically featured on TikTok,” she added. “There’s no song to lip-sync, no set moves to copy. It’s simply a pleasure to watch.”
Filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic—viewers will note the lack of masks—the project was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music as a tribute to the academy’s outgoing executive producer, Joseph V. Melillo. Directed by Mitchell Rose, it features quirky solos by dance icons including Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Bebe Miller, Lucinda Childs, William Forsythe and Benjamin Millepied, as well as Conn’s own Dorfman, the artistic director and founder of the influential modern dance company and Conn’s company-in-residence, David Dorfman Dance.
Dorfman, whose impressive resume includes a 2019 United States Artists Fellowship, four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, three from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Choreographers Award, a Lucille Lortel Award for best choreography, the first Paul Taylor Fellowship from The Yard, a New York Dance & Performance Award (“Bessie”) and a 2021 Connecticut Artists Fellowship Artistic Excellence Award, both opens and closes the video. After each soloist has performed their own unique piece, the film returns to the subway station, where Dorfman dances onto a train, then smiles through the window as the train pulls away.
“The 52 international artists in this video have generally moved on from their performing careers—but what gorgeous dancers they still are, and how wonderfully they play,” wrote Kaufman.
“To watch them is to see that any small square of space can be your sandbox. This is about utter, exhilarating freedom. Uninhibited pleasure in moving, in existing. For these dancers, it’s effortless.”