David Dorfman’s late-hour conversation with Sly Stone saves “Prophets of Funk” performance

Dance · Music

It was a harrowing few days for Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, CA, a sound man named Sam Crawford, eight members of David Dorfman Dance, and the choreographer himself, as the key underpinning of David Dorfman’s touring show “Prophets of Funk ” — the right to use a multi-song sound score by Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone — was in question right up till curtain last night.

All ended well, however, and the splendid full-evening paean to Sly & the Family Stone, a rock band worthy of the honor, went on. But it was marred by a nail-biting development that required Dorfman’s sound guy to pull two all-nighters to create a last-minute replacement score. When on Saturday at 6:45 pm Stone, the notoriously quirky musician/composer, granted Dorfman verbal permission to use his music, Crawford’s effort was nixed — reminding him, we’re sure, that there’s no business like show business.

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Concerning the four prior outings of his show, the New London, CT- based Dorfman said, “We performed until we knew it was unauthorized. And then we didn’t perform it [any more].”

The terms for the ongoing use of the music have not yet been established.

Displaying cool professionalism in a situation that made her not the envy of every arts presenter, Michele Roberge, Carpenter Performing Arts Center’s Executive Director, warned her hard-won audience members that they might not receive the show they signed up for. Excerpt here:

Thank you for purchasing tickets for our final Dance Series presentation of the 10-11 season, David Dorfman Dance in Prophets of Funk. We are deeply grateful for your enthusiasm for dance—and your support of the Carpenter Center’s efforts to bring world-class dance performances to Southern California.

I want to let you know of a wrinkle we’ve encountered in preparing this performance for you for tomorrow night. Yesterday David Dorfman Dance informed me that the music house that hold the rights to Sly and the Family Stone’s music catalog is withholding the rights to use the music tomorrow night until they get written approval from Sly himself.

As you might imagine, we are employing several avenues to reach Sly to secure that permission. In the event we are not successful, Mr. Dorfman has already created an alternate score, and “the show will go on!”

We will have a terrific performance for you tomorrow night. I don’t want to say now that we won’t use Sly and the Family Stone’s music in the performance, to give the lawyers and all our contacts time to reach Sly and complete the approval process.

We wish David Dorfman success in nailing a deal so audiences may enjoy his dance-crammed (dare we call it) sly and funny “Prophets of Funk.” The backward glance at sixties culture works on so many levels; how can you miss with that music’s irresistible licks and grooves? The dancers kick in unerring performances; they talk and sing, too; special kudos go to girl-in-the-funky-blue-jumpsuit, Whitney Lynn Tucker, and the butt-funny Kyle Abraham (“Hey, that’s my step!”).

The sixties was a body-licious era when Americans talked and signaled with fashion, hair, and physical attitude. So, get up and dance to the music!

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