Founded in 2014 under the leadership of Artist Director and Choreographer Megan Pulfer, Emergent Dance Company presented its very first full evening of work and fundraising Gala at the spacious Rose Center Theater in Westminster, California on Saturday, October 22, 2022. Billed as an evening dedicated to the Arts, there was a gallery of paintings by Joyce Legate that were available for purchase and a gorgeous program booklet designed and illustrated by writer and poet Jordan Nishkian. The program featured seven works by Pulfer and Mythology of Self by guest dance artist Laurie Sefton. It became clear that Emergent Dance Company is one that promises to be a major dance force in Orange County.
Pulfer took on subjects of time, humanistic instincts, repeating history, resisting change, how we tend to focus on our differences, fight or flight, and equal rights for women. These are huge issues, any one of which could easily take a full evening to address. Pulfer chose, however, to investigate each one via the quality of movement in each work, the music and gestures performed by the extraordinarily talented cast of dancers in both the main and the second companies. She wove her thoughts on each subject into the dancers’ bodies and how they interpreted Pulfer’s choreography, rather than through a narrative platform.
Emergent Dance Company (main company) consists of seven women, each of whom are quite capable of performing with any professional company in the U.S. Dancer Jessie Mays was unable to perform and was replaced by Madison Simons, Assistant Director of Ballet Etudes, and LA based dance artist Paige Amicon. Emergent’s second company included five women and one man, and this performance proved that their potential is also very broad. This, along with the amazing performances by the members of Laurie Sefton Creates, provided almost two hours of remarkable dancing. The works created for the main company by Pulfer that stood out for me were Between Seconds, 99.5, and I think It Is Right. For the second company, Instinctual definitely held my attention.
Originally choreographed in 2013 for the Kamea Dance Company in Be’er Sheva, Israel, Pulfer deals with time in Between Seconds through the use of musical meter. She goes with the driving scores by Mogwai, Chromatics and The Album Leaf, and then begins to divide up the rhythmic meters of each as well as the formations that the dancers are performing in unison. In 99.5, the dancers utilize a circle of four chairs as they move in unison in tandem with athletic solos and duets taking place simultaneously within the circle. Instinctual highlights the talents of seven young dancers who are members of the pre-professional Ballet Etudes. They were as capable of executing Pulfer’s rapid-fire movement while articulating gestures, as the dancers in the main company. A brief solo by Emerson Donohoe stood out, not because he was the only man in the group, but because if he wants a professional career in dancing, it is there waiting for him.
Sefton’s The Mythology of Self had its premiere in September of this year at Stomping Ground L.A. It is an incredible multi-media work that at times tests one’s patience, but which draws one in emotionally and does not let go. The dance requires not only technically strong dancers but those who can sustain a presence onstage via their acting abilities. Sefton has given each dancer a fictional character that she has created from a variety of virtual personae and people she knows personally who were strongly affected by the isolation forced upon the world during the Covid pandemic. Alisa Carreras, Emily Krenik, Mizuki Sako, Sidney Scully, and Nicholas Sipes lived up to this challenge and in a very short time, have grown tremendously in both areas.
The Mythology of Self opened with the performers standing along the stage’s perimeter moving slowly to the extraordinary voice of mezzo soprano Carmen Voskuhl. A photographer, Skye Schmidt, walked in and around the performers taking photos that were instantly manipulated and projected on a screen by German Diaz who sat onstage with his computer. The work revealed emotions that those of us to whom experienced isolation and loneliness during the past two years could relate.
The original scores for The Mythology of Self were by Bryan Curt Kostors and Emer Kinsella. The composer for Ms. Voskuhl was Victoria Vasta. The appropriately abstracted costumes were by Leon Wiebers and the excellent Lighting was by Dan Weingarten.
One of the highlights of the evening was Pulfer’s closing work I Think It Is Right performed to music by Travis Lake and voice-over of excerpts from Emma Watson’s powerful HeForShe Speech delivered at the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2014. For this work, Pulfer’s sometimes over use of unison drove the meaning home via marching in the streets, gestures of unity and fist raised power signs – in this case Women Power. The music drove the dancers while the words from Watson’s speech brought attention to the gestures.
The dancers who performed in the main Emergent Dance Company included Paige Amicon, Bridgette Burnett, Gunta Liepina-Miller, Stephanie Lin, Katie Marshall, Stacie Overmyer, Melody Plastow, and Madison Simons. The members of the second company were: Gianna Acciacca, Albany Adele, Emerson Donohoe, Kelly McGill, Bridget Nagel, Nicole Potts.
Pulfer also designed and built the costumes for each of her seven works. What an amazingly talented woman she is. She has mastered the construction and deconstruction of unison movement. I urge her to branch out choreographically or she risks all her work looking the same.
To find out more about Emergent Dance Company, please visit their website.
To find out more about Laurie Sefton Creates, please visit their website.
To learn more about the Rose Center Theater in Westminster, CA., please visit their website.
Written By Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Emergent Dance Company in I Think It Is Right choreography by Megan Pulfer – Photo by Jazley Faith @jazleyfaithphoto