The Muhlenberg dance department closed out the season with “Dance Emerge” which hit the stage this past weekend, Apr. 28-30, in the Studio Theatre. All ten pieces were student choreographed and student performed, making for a production that truly highlighted the passion and talents of dance students. Dance styles that were featured in the show included contemporary, jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern and improvisation.
The student choreographers had the opportunity to use the Studio Theatre as a space to help further their intended messages that they chose to portray with their pieces. The choreographers for Dance Emerge were Jane Carney ‘24, Erika Dubin ‘23, Nicola Ferro ‘23, Sarah Gwiazda ‘23, Riley Hammett ‘24, Dani Medvedovski ‘24, Bella Pansera ‘23, Grace Sellinger ‘23, Claire Spenard ‘23 and Hannah Warren ‘23. Chris Rubingh ‘24 was the associate artistic director.
“There is a huge sense of community and support within the department, allowing for students to grow into the artists they had once dreamed of becoming.”-Sarah Gwiazda ’23
The use of the Studio Theater was a huge part of Dance Emerge becoming the final product that it was. Rubingh honed in on the importance of the space that was used. “I think what drew me to be a part of this project was really the use of the Studio Theatre, this really opened up an opportunity for us to try to create a totally different dance experience from what we have seen before. We wanted to create a concert where pieces were not adapted, but made for the space. That studio was really the first building block for shaping our whole idea and concept behind this year’s Emerge. We were really looking for as many unique and specific pieces as possible and the choreographers rose far above the occasion. We wanted to try not to hold onto what had been done in the past, in any dance space, but to open doors for the future.”
Artistic Director and Adjunct Professor of Dance Lisa Busfield discussed the idea of having a specific message that the audience was expected to come away with having gained. Busfield said that “No, there was not a specific message we wanted to convey for the concert as a whole. Rather, really allow our choreographers and dancers freedom to explore and investigate new means of dance creation. Each choreographer submits a proposal for a piece they are interested in exploring and creating at the beginning of the semester. In the selection process for this concert, we were really interested in integrating a variety of personal, social and psychological topics, movement styles and cultivating engagement with each piece.” This varied approach to representing dances and dance styles that do not fit into one mold, or are meant to create one uniform conclusion, allowed “Emerge,” and all of its dancers and choreographers to have a level of creative freedom to highlight their individuality as dancers and as people.
Maria Wetzel ‘26, dancer in the piece “Dirty Numb Angels,” discussed what she has learned and enjoyed so much, as being a first-year student in the dance department. “My favorite part of the process was the people I got to work with. Claire (my choreographer) and everyone in my cast was so creative and talented. To create the piece we didn’t just come into rehearsal and learn the choreography, we also played games and explored with improvisation and eventually it all came together. Working on this piece has shown me that the process of creating a dance doesn’t have to look a certain way.”
As a senior dance student, “Dance Emerge” was Gwiazda’s last show at Muhlenberg. When asked to reflect on her time in the program, she took a step back to contemplate. “As I look back on the past four years, the Muhlenberg dance department is a family. I remember during my very first show, ‘Moving Stories ‘19,’ was when I felt like I was at home on this campus. There is a huge sense of community and support within the department, allowing for students to grow into the artists they had once dreamed of becoming. Between the faculty and fellow peers, I have always felt like I have something special that makes me unique in my artistic ability. The Muhlenberg dance department has impacted me in ways I didn’t know possible, I’m forever grateful for my experiences, the lessons I’ve learned and the amazing people I have met along the way.”
“Working on this piece has shown me that the process of creating a dance doesn’t have to look a certain way.”-Maria Wetzel ’26
With “Dance Emerge” being the last Muhlenberg production for many senior dancers and choreographers that have spent years within the program, it was definitely a show with intense sentimentality for all. This personal sincerity bled through onto the stage, with every single performance bursting at the seams with enormous passion.