Union dance company collaborates with Sarajevo ballet in new work

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UNION, NJ — During the past two months, two choreographers and 15 dancers have reached across the Atlantic Ocean to create a short work, “Alone/Together,” which premiered July 15 via Facebook Premiere and is now available on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube using @cdorfmandance and on Vimeo. Stressing unity during turbulent times, performers from Carolyn Dorfman Dance in Union collaborated with performers from the National Theater Sarajevo Ballet, from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the global COVID-19 shutdown, artists were particularly hard hit as performances were canceled, rehearsals terminated, and educational programs abruptly stopped or altered. The fragile dance community was immediately affected because the spring heralds major performances, much-needed fundraising galas, and intense preparation for summer dance initiatives and festivals, all of which were canceled.

This new way of life significantly influenced choreographers. Their space and environment for their creations and work were set by apartments and houses. Their basic tools — dancers — were now on the screens of their phones and computers.

But, at this time of great uncertainty and physical distancing, two artistic friends reached across thousands of miles to create a work that reinforces the unifying power of dance and the triumph of the human spirit. Carolyn Dorfman, the artistic director of the New York/New Jersey–based Carolyn Dorfman Dance, and Belma Ceco Bakrac, the ballet choreographer of the National Theater Sarajevo Ballet based in the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, asked their dancers to work with one another and with them to choreograph a piece that celebrates their common bond.

This relationship began in 2015 when Carolyn Dorfman Dance performed in the Sarajevo Winter Festival in the historic National Theater Sarajevo, home to the national ballet. On this occasion, a workshop was organized with Dorfman in the National Theater Sarajevo. The relationship blossomed in 2017, when Carolyn Dorfman Dance raised funds through the Trust for Mutual Understanding to bring five dancers and Bakrac to the United States to train and prepare to dance with CDD in a November 2017 performance at the National Theater Sarajevo. The return tour and residency was sponsored by the United States Embassy in Sarajevo.

“In these most challenging times when only glimmers of light seem visible through the tunnel, Carolyn Dorfman Dance wants to be one of those lights,” Dorfman said. “Our dancers still rehearsed, our educational programs continued online and the creative spirit flourished. Our friendship with the Sarajevo Ballet began in 2015 and gets stronger every year. We are thrilled to build on this partnership despite the hurdles of physical distancing and the pandemic.”

Carolyn Dorfman Dance is known for emotional resonance and artistic excellence both in its performances and its interactions with audiences, students and the community. The company comprises 11 multiethnic, talented dancers, including Samantha Altenau, Jarred Bosch, Nina Chong-Jimenez, Caroline Dietz, Quincy Dow, Lara Friedman-Kats, Brandon Jones, Kaila Moses, Robert Rubama, Katlyn Waldo and Associate Artistic Director Jacqueline Dumas Albert. This project also includes training apprentice Martin Austin.

National Theater Sarajevo was founded in 1921 as a drama ensemble. In 1946, an opera ensemble was formed, followed by the founding of the Sarajevo Ballet in 1950. The Sarajevo Ballet, considered a jewel for the region, recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of its first independent performance, which was on May 25, 1950. Five dancers from the company were an integral part of this effort: Zulejha Keco, Lejla Bajramovic, Selma Efendic, Admir Kalkan and Til Cmancanin.

“Dance is an art form that knows no borders, states, continents, gender, social status, racial distinction or religion,” Bakrac said. “It is the art that unites us and which has led to this partnership between the ballet of the Sarajevo National Theater and the company of Carolyn Dorfman. Working with our overseas friends helps us transcend the personal and professional disruption of the coronavirus.”

“Alone/Together” uses the music of contemporary Sarajevo composer Svjetlana Bukvich, who has composed two of Dorfman’s works. An award-winning composer and currently on the faculty at NYU and the Pratt Institute, Bukvich has appeared in top venues around the world, including the Kennedy Center, the Tribeca Film Festival, Berklee Performance Center, NJPAC and the Sarajevo Winter Festival.

For more information about Carolyn Dorfman Dance, go to www.carolyndorfman.dance.