We had the good fortune of connecting with Raélle Dorfan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Raélle, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
As my knowledge and experiences expand, my ambitions and dreams continually evolve too. Redefining success and reflecting on the value I and/or my community placed on specific goals is an essential part of the journey. Since there is much not within our control, the decision to stick to the original plan or explore a new path is unique to each person and individual experience. When the question has come up for me – whether to keep going in the same direction – I dim the sounds around me, including the past and future expectation, and focus on being present – listening to my instinct.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, I immigrated with my family to California at the turn of the century – a fortunate move coupled with many challenges. Being an immigrant meant I had a lot to learn and catch up on – both generally and academically – which set me back in regards to my own self appointed goals. I am one of those people who knew from the minute I could sing and dance exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Academically, none of my Musical Theater course credits from South Africa were transferable so I had to start college again. This had its benefits since the American school system offered unique subjects not available to me in South Africa such as Oceanography and Choreography. When the unimaginable happened and I was 1 out of 15 transfer students accepted to world renowned UCLA’s Dance Department, I embraced every subject and exceeded capacity – since 12 units were max credits allotted, I was doing 19. Towards the end of my 3rd year of university, I was invited to participate in a dance intensive in the UK with a contemporary African dance company and seized this once in a lifetime opportunity. This proved to be one of my best decisions as I was able to explore and travel in a safe and productive environment. Upon returning to the States, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA Dance & Choreography Department – a significant achievement and one I shared with my parents who had dedicated their time and energy ensuring my sister and I had the best opportunities available to us. Graduating from UCLA expanded my circles and led me to the career path I am currently riding on; in the performing and cultural arts sector as a Director, Teaching Artist, Creative/Choreographer, Performer and Producer. I have always been open to experiencing different avenues and engaged in as many opportunities as I could; from Production on music videos and commercials to Education Director of a dance/fitness program, as well as a non profit Executive Director, and as a Choreographer, Creative Director and Producer for both my own and others projects. I knew I needed to keep challenging myself as a performer and did so performing with companies like Pacifico Dance Company and LA’s Fusion Dance Theater on California’s most prestigious stages including McCallum Performing Arts Center, Cerritos PAC, Redlands Bowl, James Armstrong Theater, Levitt Pavillion Pasadena, LA Convention Center, Art Share LA, UCLA’s Freud Playhouse and Fowler Museum, Japan American Theatre, Pasadena CC and as part of the Los Angeles Nisei Festival and Eagle Rock Festival. I have been invited to judge numerous performing arts events, such as Dancing with the South Bay Stars and Open Call at McCallum Theater, and joined Boards for non profit organizations, to date serving on the Simama Project, Fusion Performing Dance Academy and Dance Resource Center’s Board of Directors. I have always maintained a minimum of 3 jobs at a time to keep up with low wages in the cultural arts sector coupled with living costs in Los Angeles. Any free time or money I have had has been invested on my ‘core’s calling’ – producing two independent solo albums, and directing more than 15 video projects. All of this taught me the valuable lesson of what creating with limited resources and budget looks like in the worlds’ entertainment capital – it involves infinite energy to maintain personal best. As I continue striving to attain my creative goals, what remains constant is staying genuine to who I am, keeping a positive and productive team around me, and always leading with grace, thoughtfulness, compassion and kindness. My voyage is constantly evolving with that which I can control and that which I cannot. Luckily art has always kept me balanced physically, emotionally and mentally, providing me with a strong foundation of discipline, resourcefulness and flexibility while staying inspired. I feel incredibly blessed that I was fortunate enough to spend half my life in South Africa and the other half in America. My youth was magnificent, I had everything and more due to my family’s support and due to the strong Jewish traditions they instilled in me. And now, the chapters I have experienced in America have granted me freedom I never knew possible. There is always room for growth and I am incredibly grateful that I am now in a position to be able to have a hand in making this world a better place for my immediate community and beyond.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
LA, home, has many special gems. First stop will always be the beach, whether it is bicycling along the shore or stopping for a fresh fish and chips picnic along the PCH north. I’d make sure to catch live jazz brunch or watch the sunset. Perch’d 16 stories high overlooking the downtown city lights, and then visit Las Perlas for traditional tacos, chips, a gimlet and some dancing! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A child’s destiny and dreams are nurtured by their surroundings and in my case significantly by my parents. Always leading by impeccable example via their words and actions, both my mom and dad gave me confidence to follow the beat of my own drum. My sister, cousins and best friends cheering me on every step of the way, coupled with exceptional teachers and artists helped keep me inspired and growing.
Luis ‘Panch’ Perez (master photo only)