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Check Out Raélle Dorfan’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Raélle Dorfan.

Hi Raélle, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, I immigrated with my family to California at the turn of the century. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to dance, sing, create, and impact the world in a positive way. I began my technique training under the Royal Academy of Dance Ballet program and furthered my performance education by studying various forms of dance, such as Spanish (Flamenco), Pilates and Musical Theater. Upon arriving in San Diego, I continued training in multiple genres of dance and performance and began exploring the art of choreography and directing. I never anticipated I would be accepted to the world-renowned UCLA Dance Department. Moving to Los Angeles shaped the trajectory of my career and gave me access to new experiences and networks while developing and enhancing my skill set.

In my final year at university, I was invited to participate in an intensive in the UK with a contemporary African dance company. I seized this once in a lifetime opportunity. Not only was I able to explore dance in other parts of the world, I embraced the moment and traveled around the UK, Europe, Israel and back home to South Africa. Upon returning to the States, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA Dance & Choreography Department which was a significant achievement for an immigrant from Jo’burg and one I shared with my parents who had dedicated their time and energy empowering my sister and I to explore opportunities available to us.

After university, I encountered different sectors and branches within the performing arts and engaged in as many ventures as possible. First as a Production Assistant on music videos and commercials and as an administrator at a boutique booking agency representing performance and cultural art companies and ensembles. I also began teaching dance/movement/theater at schools and studios across Los Angeles County; from Watts to the Valley to Hermosa Beach and everywhere in between – needless to say, my car’s mileage was off the chart! I then accepted the position as Education Director of a dance/fitness program located in the South Bay. Thereafter, my journey ushered me to my current roles as resident Teaching Artist at an international private school in West LA and as Executive Director of a nonprofit organization supporting dance professionals in SoCal. I continue to create (dance and music), choreograph, direct, produce and perform for both my own and others’ projects.

I have performed with Pacifico Dance Company and Fusion Dance Theater on some of California’s most prestigious stages and have been invited to judge numerous performing arts events, such as Dancing with the South Bay Stars and Open Call at McCallum Theater. I have also been invited as a guest speaker on panels at UCLA, USC, Arts for LA and the Actors Fund.

Additionally, I serve as Board Director for nonprofit organizations; the Simama Project in Nanyuki, Kenya, Fusion Performing Dance Academy in East Los Angeles, and Dance Resource Center in Los Angeles.

I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to spend half my life in South Africa and the other half in the USA. My youth was magnificent, I had everything and more and was able to follow my abilities and instincts due to my family’s support and the strong Jewish traditions instilled in me. Coupled with that, my life in America has granted me freedom I never knew possible in an abundance of ways.

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. Art and art-making has always kept me balanced physically, emotionally and mentally, providing a strong foundation of discipline, resourcefulness and flexibility, ignited by inspiration and passion. My voyage is constantly evolving.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Immigration was an extremely favored move coupled with challenges along the way. Moving to a different country, even one where you are fortunate to speak the same first language means learning a completely new set of systems: financial, academic, political, business, etc. Being an immigrant means there is much to learn and plenty to catch up on which set me back in regards to my own self-appointed goals. As an example, I was able to study Musical Theater in South Africa prior to moving to the US but none of my course credits were transferable. I needed to start college all over again which seemed daunting at first. The silver lining presented itself in that the American school system offered unique subjects which expanded my knowledge in various areas, including languages such as Yiddish, and Oceanography, to name a few. I welcomed new insight and exceeded capacity – if 12 units were max credits allotted, I was doing 19. It was a way for me to catch up and get closer to achieving my dreams.

Another challenge was managing the cost of living in Los Angeles. I have always had to maintain a minimum of 3 jobs at a time to keep up with low wages in the performing/teaching/cultural arts/nonprofit sector and the high cost of living needed to sustain independently in LA.

Any free time or additional money was invested in my core’s calling – I produced two independent solo albums and directed and/or choreographed more than 15 video projects. There have been obstacles along the way and many have taught me the value of creating with limited resources and budget in the worlds’ entertainment capital. I have learned the value of infinite energy and patience in order to maintain personal best.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I fall into all categories: Artist, Creative, Employee and Professional.

Being able to balance creative and professional careers is a challenge and juggling priorities needs constant fine-tuning in order to achieve high-value results. My specialties are expansive, being accomplished in roles in the employee/professional sector such as Education Director, Managing Director, Programming Director, Chief Financial Officer, and Executive Director, all while working to master my creative, choreography, songwriting, performance, teaching and artistic skills.

Understanding the many facets in business, whether it be for-profit or nonprofit work, has given me comprehensive knowledge and opened opportunities in multiple professions.

Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Embracing individual character in the ecosystem is vital. As is appreciating others. There is always someone to learn from and there is always someone to support.

Staying genuine, valuing yourself, and being respectful to others will always be key attributes to success no matter what path you embark upon. Actively listening to understand and staying focused are qualities that can exceed professional ethics and expectation.

We know change and evolution is constant, so being flexible to that which is not within our control, allows space for growth.

Finally finding balance is crucial to overall success. Embrace outlets true to your individual happiness, whether it be sport, reading, art, travel, meditation, dinner with friends, etc., ensuring physical, mental and emotional well-being.

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Image Credits
Cover Photo: Luis Panch Perez

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