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Performing This Weekend: Pulse, Anchorage’s Thrilling New Dance Ensemble

Sophie Auburn of Pulse Dance Company, Photo by Anthony Lee Photography

Anchorage’s Pulse Dance Company is performing this weekend, and it promises to be the most exciting dance concert in Alaska this spring. That may be a brash and hyperbolic statement, but I can’t help it. Watch a couple videos of Pulse for yourself (there are several on their website). You may decide that you agree with me. 

First, the need-to-know: Pulse performs at 8:00 pm on Friday and Saturday, January 20 and 21, 2012, at the Alaska Performing Arts Center’s Sydney Laurence Theater in Anchorage. General admission tickets are $17 (or $15 for youth) and are available through CenterTix

Pulse is a young enough company — this is just their second season — that it’s still building its name recognition and enjoying newbie buzz. But even if the organization is young, it’s also one of the few dance companies in Anchorage that isn’t dually occupied with offering kids’ dance lessons and recitals. Pulse has a maturity and sexiness that other local dance companies lack. 

Stephanie Wonchala, Pulse’s artistic director, describes the company’s genre as modern dance, dance theater, and even performance art. This weekend’s eclectic show will include lots of modern works, but also a balletic work, a drill-team inspired piece, and a Broadway-influenced piece. 

One work on the program, Ecrem III, is methodically choreographed in the style of the late Merce Cunningham. Ecrem is Merce spelled backwards; III is the number of dancers. (I didn’t figure this out for myself. Ms. Wonchala spelled it out for me.) In the Cunningham tradition, the three Ecrem dancers will dance to the accompanying score for the very first time at Friday night’s performance. Really. They won’t have practiced with or even heard the music until the first show. Doesn’t that sound incredibly hard? (Also makes a strong case for going Friday night — they’re not changing the score for Saturday’s show.)  

Ms. Wonchala told me that “dance and movement are one and the same,” and that her company uses and experiments with all kinds of movement, even facial expressions and stillness. I can’t say that I entirely get it. Take Inner Motion, the 10-minute movie that Pulse will premier this weekend as part of the show. I watched the trailer of Inner Motion on their website, and the dancing bits are gorgeous, riotous, infectious. But how does a woman, arising alarmed and drenched, as if startled awake from a bath, have anything to do with the company dancing in the next screen? I don’t really understand the meaning behind the masked, bustiered woman wriggling across those bodies, the consternated woman with the über-dark under-eye make-up who stares over her shoulder. 

But maybe that’s the point. Ms. Wonchala told me that their goal is simply to get audience members to feel something. It seems like Pulse is concerned more with provoking gut emotion, and less with appearing beautiful or graceful all the time. Judging from the videos, I think Pulse will achieve all those things this weekend. I’m eager to get to the show and see this new company for myself. Hope to see you there!


NOTE: Seats are unassigned, first-come first-served, but don’t fret overmuch: every single seat is fabulous in the intimate Sydney Laurence Theater. Still, if you’re particular about your seat or want to sit with a large group, you may want to arrive early, maybe 7:30 or so.