By Walter Rutledge
David Dorfman Dance presented the New York première of Prophets of the Funk on Tuesday January 24 at the Joyce Theater. The work was an homage to the genius of Sly Stone and his band Sly and The Family Stone. Choreographer Dorfman took us on a dance theatre excursion that can only be described as funky.
The eight-member company was clad in period costumes complete with platform shoes and large Afro wigs. The fifty-minute one-act work was staged without an intermission, and used music, spoken word and video projections to transport the audience back to the turbulent 1970’s. The message driven lyrics of Sly Stone, however, provided the best backdrop for the time travel.
Dorfman combined free dance movement with his own jazz and modern fused style. The freewheeling work with it’s unabashed 70′s fun, and funk also dealt with important social issues of the era. Free love, drugs and race relations were front and center, and Dorfman chose not to merely dance around these issues.
Dorfman realized that drugs diminished Sly Stone as an artist. He takes us “higher” and than into the depths of reality. He also should be applauded for not shying away from Stone’s music declaration in the song Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey.
Raja Kelly as the Sly Stone character danced, sang and worked magic with the audience. At one point he had us standing, waving piece signs and singing back lyrics. His portrayal of Stone extended beyond dance without slipping into caricature or cliché.
Kyle Abraham was another cast standout. His strong dancing and acting revealed a great sense of comedic timing. The spoken word passages also developed Abraham into a multi-dimensional performer who was both personable and at times prophetic.
Prophets of the Funk ended with a party. Cast members invited the audience on stage to “dance to the music”. The one-act format was extremely audience friendly; it left the audience wanting more, which is the best way to leave them. The work will be performed Wednesday at 7:30pm; Thursday & Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased at JoyceCharge: 212-242-0800, and joyce.org .
In Photo: 1) Kyle Abraham, Raja Kelly, Whitney Tucker 2) Whitney Tucker, Raja Kelly, Kendra Portier 3) Raja Kelly, Whitney Tucker 4) Renuka Hines, Kyle Abraham, Karl Rogers; Background: Luke Gutgsell
Photos by 1& 4) Adam Campos 2) Christopher Duggan 3) Vince Scarano