Program Type: 
David Dorfman Dance

Prophets of Funk

April 25, 2013 - April 27, 2013
YBCA Forum


Thu, Apr 25–Sat, Apr 27  •  8 pm  •  YBCA Forum
Advance tickets: $25 Regular  •  $20 students, teachers and seniors*
At the door: $30 Regular  •  $25 students, teachers and seniors*
$20 YBCA members

Thrifty Thursday, Apr 25: All seats $10
$10 Teen Tix: Friday night only, ages 18 and under*

*Special offers available in person or by phone (415.978.ARTS).

Thu, Apr 25: Post-Show Q&A with David Dorfman and members of the company

“His choreography moves to the music in such a deep grounded way that the dancers were the music.”

Talking About Dance

“The music, the dancing, the show biz atmosphere never stop fizzing.”

—Deborah Jowitt, Arts Journal

David Dorfman Dance delivers a blast from the past as one of the Bay Area’s favorite funk bands comes alive again on stage at YBCA with their newest work, Prophets of Funk, an electrifying performance that celebrates the band’s groundbreaking and original sound and salutes the struggles and achievements of everyday people. Choreographer David Dorfman Dance creates dance that generates dialogue, debate and change through innovative, inclusive performances that are radically humanistic. Similarly, Sly & the Family Stone, one of the first racially and gender-integrated bands in American music history, created music that spoke to divisive issues facing American society and appealed for solidarity amongst the diverse audiences who connected them and their message of social justice. Together, these artists have merged over their common belief in the prophetic possibilities of music and dance and invite everyday people to find ardor in the muck and mess — the funk — of life.

Prophets of Funk lifts up the spirit of Sly & the Family Stone, insisting that in the face of this funk, there are still hopes and aspirations that reside in all of us. Audiences are also encouraged to sing — and dance — along with their favorite oldies, including Stand, Let Me Take You Higher, Dance to the Music and (of course) Everyday People.


Rhythm. Groove. Love. It’s 1973 and David Dorfman experiences Sly & the Family Stone in concert as a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis where he is also discovering the world of dance and his love of authentic movement and accessible music. Dorfman (who received an MFA in Dance from Connecticut College in 1981 and has been Department Chair/ Professor of Dance there since 2004) returns to these roots with his new project Prophets of Funk (POF) a dynamic engagement of movement driven by the popular — and populist — funk sounds of Sly and the Family Stone. Sly & the Family Stone was one of the first racially and gender-integrated bands in American music history and solid purveyors of social consciousness. With Prophets of Funk, David Dorfman Dance (DDD) will create an evening that will celebrate Sly & the Family Stone’s groundbreaking, visceral, and powerful music of prophetic love and the struggles and celebration of everyday people. Prophets of Funk lifts up the spirit of Sly: that in the face of the funk of life, there are still hopes and aspirations that reside in all of us.

With the vision to create innovative, inclusive, movement-based performance that is radically humanistic, David Dorfman Dance brings to life dance that generates dialogue, debate, and change. Similarly, Sly and the Family Stone created music that spoke to divisive issues facing American society and appealed for solidarity amongst the diverse audiences who listened and connected with their music despite issues of race or prejudices. Dorfman and Sly and the Family Stone find common purpose in the prophetic possibilities of music and dance that invites everyday people to find hope in the muck and mess — the funk — of life.

For POF Dorfman has invited his collaborators from the project underground, Alex Timbers and Jacob Pinholster, to join forces again. Obie award-winner, Alex Timbers who recently had both Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway, lent his astute dramaturgy to the project, helping Dorfman create a dance-centered piece that draws deeply from the fresh inspiration of musical theatre. Jacob Pinholster’s inventive video design enhances audience experience by providing fantastical period visual imagery allowing the piece to be in the past and present at once. The company’s residency at Connecticut College also led to an on-going partnership with its Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity, whose inaugural director, David Kyuman Kim, is also a board member of DDD. Kim served as a creative consultant/scholar-in-residence during the creation of the new work, and helps to support Dorfman’s vision, engages in feedback with the company, and facilitates post-performance Q & A’s when possible.

For over twenty-five years, DDD has effectively and persistently engaged audiences worldwide. DDD offers technique and repertoire classes, performance and creation workshops, lectures/demonstrations, open rehearsals, and post-performance discussions in each city where the company tours. For Prophets of Funk, Dorfman will give workshops that involve both dancers and the general public. Workshops will revolve around movement creation as an inspirational act, the power of touch, intimacy, and the role of hope on a day-to-day basis. This content will connect to the theme of prophecy and the multiple meanings of funk.

The creation phase of the project began during DDD’s residency at New York University’s Tisch Dance Summer Residency Festival in May 2009, and continued with a public work-in-progress showing at the Festival in May of 2010. The eight-member company spent twelve weeks in total rehearsing in New York City and in Connecticut to prepare the new work, which became a part of the company’s touring repertoire after its premiere in the onStage Series at Connecticut College on February 4th, 2011.

The audience should be prepared to have great difficulty resisting the temptation to move and sing along with this incredible, ahead-of-its-time music. Dress comfortably, even funk-ally, as you may find yourself on stage dancing by the evening’s end. Joy will reign with the appropriate amount of back down to earth funk. You will enjoy!

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  • David Dorfman Dance: Prophets of Funk
    Apr 25, 2013 7:00pm
    Apr 26, 2013 7:00pm
    Apr 27, 2013 7:00pm
    YBCA Forum
  • Smart Night Out: David Dorfman Dance - YBCA:YOU Only
    Apr 27, 2013 5:00pm – 10:00pm
    Front Door Gallery
    YOU Exclusive Event

    If a YBCA performance is dinner, then Smart Night Out is the appetizer and the dessert. Smart Night Out is part workshop, part happy hour date and part backstage sneak peek. This month features David Dorfman Dance’s tribute to Sly & the Family Stone in Prophets of Funk, a work illuminating the power of music and movement during which the audience is invited to sing and dance along.

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Curator Statement

YBCA talks a pretty good future game. So much so that our hindsight health sometimes suffers from lack of care. We’re not very good at sepia tones or grainy black and white here. A contemporary arts center engaged with the forward-facing, we enjoy the present-progressive tense, it is always happening, “still” is an option for water at the W.

So when we do past, we veer toward David Dorfman’s vision of someone like Sly Stone, who 40 years after coming to international prominence is still ahead of his time. And of course we contextualize this moment with colliding temporal interfaces: the imminent departure of an incredible executive director corralling our nostalgia and institutional memory, and the first in a series of crowd-sourced populist acts, the Public Square, whose primary feature is the collection of interventions created by YBCA’s Future Soul Think Tank.


A note on nostalgia…

I’m standing on line at Fenton’s and a fifth-grader is clowning my taste in music.

I know the kid to be really smart, and probably wouldn’t mind being outwitted by him in chess or pummeled by him on the Wii, but the angelic pity underscoring his assumption that I have antiquated musical allegiances is too much to shoulder.

Mostly because it’s true…

I like old-people music…

Even the hip-hop music that raised me rewound horn samples from Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool or vibes from Roy Ayers, Barry White strings, or Clyde Stubblefield drum breaks .

God bless Freddy Montpremier, who in 10th grade discovered that by rhythmically banging a weathered tennis ball and a borrowed quarter on the lunch tables of our high school cafeteria, he could duplicate exactly the bass and snare sound of the song “Buggin’ Out” on the new Tribe Called Quest album.

God bless black boys lost and the low-end theories that breadcrumb them back to their sanity…

The tables in the high school cafeteria were my teenage compass pointing me to funk…


David Dorfman’s gaze is a discovery dance focused on every day people. Over the course of his storied career, he’s managed to reconcile proscenium and pedestrian with elegant aplomb and heart-stopping rigor, placing some of the world’s most athletic contemporary choreography in a forest of quaking sadness or a desert of translucent celebration. Among his latest muses is the music of Sly & the Family Stone, and I suspect that his attraction to the group is as much about the demographics of its messengers as the rawness of the funk itself. The creative forces that inspired Prophets of Funk indicate the great doctrines of egalitarianism and compassion played out across a multi-hued ensemble, providing not just ear candy, but social aspiration by example. This piece emanates from a mixed race crew emerging out of the ’60s and ’70s, playing soulful music that literally transcended cultural demographics. Dorfman’s muse, born geographically and psychically out of the Bay Area aesthetic, exemplifies future soul from a historical perch, bringing YBCA and its audiences in rapid collision with a blurring timelessness, demanding us to stand at attention, seducing us to dance to the music…

-Marc Bamuthi Joseph

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Artist Bio


Since its founding in 1985, David Dorfman Dance has performed extensively in New York City and throughout North and South America, Great Britain, and Europe, most recently in St. Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk in Russia and Bytom and Cracow in Poland. David Dorfman and the company’s dancers and artistic collaborators have been honored with eight New York Dance and Performance ("Bessie") Awards.

Prophets of Funk, the company’s newest project, previewed at Vanderbilt University in September 2010, and premiered at Connecticut College on February 4th, 2011 through the generous support of National Dance Project/NEFA. The work is currently touring across the country and has been performed at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, The Joyce Theater in NYC, and at Lincoln Center Out of Doors where the Company performed to the live music of the Family Stone in 2011. Prophets of Funk is a dynamic engagement of movement driven by the popular — and populist — funk sounds of Sly and the Family Stone.

Other recent creative projects include Disavowal, inspired by the life and legacy of radical abolitionist John Brown, which premiered in Chicago in September 2008 and premiered in New York at Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church in May 2009; underground, which received its New York premiere in 2006 during the company’s second appearance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival (following performances at the American Dance Festival, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and tours around the world); Older Testaments, to music by composer/trumpeter Frank London of The Klezmatics; Lightbulb Theory, set to an original commissioned score by Michael Wall; and A Cure for Gravity, set to music by popular composer and recording artist Joe Jackson.

Community-based projects have played an important role in the life of the company. In Out of Season (The Athletes Project) and Familiar Movements (The Family Project), the members of the company rehearse and perform with groups of volunteer athletes or family members selected in the communities to which the company tours. In No Roles Barred, David Dorfman Dance examines the personal roles assumed, formed and interwoven in our modern social construct. This project has been wildly successful with groups ranging from corporate executives and “at-risk” youths to college administrators, doctors, carpenters and social dance enthusiasts. No Roles Barred continues to advance David Dorfman’s goal to “get the whole world dancing.” The company’s three community projects have been presented over 30 times in 18 states and two foreign countries.

David Dorfman Dance has been company-in-residence at Connecticut College since 2007.

David Dorfman

David Dorfman (Artistic Director) is a native Chicagoan and recipient of a 2005 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Dorfman’s honors include: fellowships from the NEA, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the first Paul Taylor Fellowship from The Yard; an American Choreographer's Award; a New York Dance & Performance Award ("Bessie") for DDD’s community-based project Familiar Movements (The Family Project); the 2007 Mid-Career Award from the Martha Hill Fund for Dance; and the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Olin Business School at Washington University, St. Louis. Dorfman's choreography has been produced at venues throughout New York City, from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to The Joyce Theater. Dorfman has received commissions throughout the U.S. and Europe, including AXIS Dance, BoSoma Dance Company and the Prince Music Theater for the musical Green Violin (2003 Barrymore Award for best choreography). As a performer he toured internationally with Kei Takei's Moving Earth and Susan Marshall & Co. Dorfman received his M.F.A. in Dance from Connecticut College, where he joined the faculty in 2004 and is currently Professor of Dance and Department Chair. With love, David thanks long-time mentors Martha Myers and the late Daniel Nagrin, his late folks Jeanette and Oscar, and his in-house family project Lisa Race and Samson Race Dorfman.

Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone took the Sixties ideal of a generation coming together and turned it into deeply groove-driven music. Rock’s first integrated, multi-gender band became funky Pied Pipers to the Woodstock Generation, synthesizing rock, soul, R&B, funk and psychedelia into danceable, message-laden, high-energy music. In promoting their gospel of tolerance and celebration of differences, Sly and the Family Stone brought disparate audiences together during the latter half of the Sixties. The group’s greatest triumph came at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. During their unforgettable nighttime set, leader Sly Stone initiated a fevered call-and-response with the audience of 400,000+ during an electrifying version of “I Want to Take You Higher.”

Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart) has been called a “great communicator” for his infectious mixture of message and music. Born in Dallas, he moved with his family to Vallejo, California, where he sang in a family gospel group as a child and later studied music theory and composition at the local junior college. He established himself in the San Francisco area as a disk jockey and a producer of such records as the Beau Brummels’ “Laugh Laugh” for Autumn Records. Sly and the Family Stone came together late in 1966, with keyboardist/vocalist Stone recruiting family members: his sister Rose (keyboards, vocals), brother Freddie Stone (guitar) and cousin Larry Graham (bass). The group was rounded out by Cynthia Robinson (trumpet), Greg Errico (drums) and Jerry Martini (sax). Their first single appeared on a local label in 1967, while their debut album, A Whole New Thing, was released nationally on Epic in 1967.

The group connected with the rising counterculture by means of songs that addressed issues of personal pride and liberation in the context of driving, insistent and sunny-tempered music that fused rock and soul, creating a template for Seventies funk. As proof that they were reaching a rainbow coalition among the young, Sly and the Family Stone dominated the late Sixties charts with such essential singles as “Dance to the Music” (#8 pop, #9 R&B), “Everyday People” (#1, pop and R&B), “Hot Fun in the Summertime” (#2 pop, #3 R&B) and “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin” (#1, pop and R&B). Despite these heady peaks, the band’s fortunes began declining in tandem with Sly Stone’s mounting substance-abuse problems. A brilliant artist even under duress, Stone was largely responsible for the bleak, cryptic but undeniably powerful There’s a Riot Goin’ On (1971), which captured the souring mood of the country no less than the sound of his own ship going down. During this period, Sly and the Family Stone became notorious for missing concert dates, though they still enjoyed commercial success with singles such as “Family Affair” (#1, pop and R&B).

A realignment in group members occurred in 1972, and Stone led the band through a couple more albums — Fresh (1973) and Small Talk (1974) — that showed flashes of the old fire. After that, however, the releases became increasingly sporadic and Stone himself appeared to drop from sight. A flurry of activity in the early Eighties found him touring on his own and with George Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars, and an album of new material, Ain’t But the One Way, appeared in 1983. Aside from two well-publicized drug busts, the ensuing years have largely been quiet ones for the man who once shook the world with the exhortation “I wanna take you higher!”


 From YBCA Curator Marc Bamuthi Joseph on Twitter:

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Prophets of Funk is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts — Art Works; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance project (NDP) with generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the MetLife Community Connections of the MetLife Foundation; the Harkness Foundation for Dance; the Jerome Robbins Foundation; The Edith Meiser Foundation; and Friends of David Dorfman Dance.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Lam Research

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Performance 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 12-13:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts