For Carolyn Dorfman, though she grew up in peacetime in New Jersey, the Jewish experience in the Holocaust — and before and after it — remains vividly relevant, made all the more so by current happenings.
Born into an extended family of Holocaust survivors, she was surrounded by stories of tragedy and resilience. Though the youngest in the second generation, she felt a responsibility to keep alive those memories and share them with the wider community. For the past 30 years, she has done it through the language of movement and music.
“When I came to modern dance, I realized that what I most wanted to do was depict the full spectrum of human experience, from the most painful to the most joyous,” she told NJ Jewish News in a Dec. 24 interview. And though her material is very specific, it has universal appeal. “It’s not just a Jewish story,” she said. “It’s about people, and the commonality of our journey.
For that reason, she said, she was delighted when the Monroe Township Patrons of the Arts invited her to present a program in honor of the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance. On Saturday, Jan. 26, her Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company will perform a series of works from its Legacy Project repertoire.
The show, at the Richard P. Marasco Theatre for the Performing Arts in Monroe Township, will include dances that celebrate the ways of “the old country,” one based on music composed in the Theresienstadt ghetto, and one that explores the immigrant encounter with the American dream.
This last part, Dorfman said, deals with “assimilation and prejudice, and the kinds of issues brought up by the Arab Spring — how you progress and become part of a larger whole without losing what is special about your own culture.”
Nancy Gunkelman, the cultural arts commissioner, said a member of the commission saw a showcase performance by the CDDC a while back and immediately thought it was something the local community would appreciate.
“We bring in many ethnically themed music and dance and visual programs, and the community loves to experience the joys of exploring different cultures. This also really appealed to us as a way to commemorate the Holocaust,” she said. “In the light of ethnic cleansing and other conflicts taking place in the world, we felt that it is important to remind people of these problems.”
Dorfman, who will provide narration to introduce the company’s dances at the Marasco, will also be giving a free daytime lecture and demonstration at Monroe Township Library.
Gunkelman pointed out that the Monroe community has a large retired population “that is very active and intellectually curious,” she said. “They enjoy interaction with the artists from different groups who come here. We like to offer programs during the day for those who no longer like to drive at night, and for those who do, who also thoroughly enjoy getting pre-show insights that deepen the experience of the evening performance.”
The program is being funded in part by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, with assistance through a grant from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State and the OceanFirst Foundation.