We had the good fortune of connecting with Ali Pfleger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ali, how do you think about risk?
Having a career in the arts is widely considered “risky” in and of itself. Like many artists, I struggled (and still struggle with) feeling confident in my career choice because of society’s stigma on professional artists. One of the biggest risks to date was pursing a career in dance and choreography. I feel like dance has always been in my body and daily life, but I began seriously training around age ten. My senior year of high school, I applied to multiple universities and had intentions of moving from Southern California to New York to study Criminology and Psychology at St. John’s University – that is, until the month before I was supposed to begin school. I knew from an early age that dance was my end-all-be-all, but growing up and being encouraged into adulthood put a lot of expectations on my shoulders that stifled my passion, creativity, and optimism. Dancing and choreographing professionally seemed very out of reach. I decided at the last minute to defer my acceptance for a year prompted by the pessimistic outlook of pursuing my passion with little to no expectation, later to pick up my education after I had failed in the arts. I went into the year with the intention of “I will regret not doing it later, so I might as well get it over with now so I can get on with what I am supposed to do with my life.” Little did I know my (what was supposed to be) gap year was a year of unexpected success and clarity. After those few months I knew that dance, choreography, and movement education is what I am called to do. Now, I am very blessed to be an artist that can live a financially comfortable life off of solely my passion. My art is athletic, intricate, detailed, and challenging to execute. In the beginning of my career was told many times to “dumb-down my choreography” because I will not appeal to the masses and only a select group of dancers and employers will appreciate and seek-out my work. I was faced with the decision to be “hirable” or take a risk and be true to what felt right to my body. Call it risk taking or stubbornness, but I continued to explore my dancing the way that felt most sincere to me and was patient until I found how to be widely hirable and true to myself. Thankfully, over the years I’ve found many groups of people that appreciate my work as I envision it. This risk not only made me happier and more fulfilled than trying to fit into a hirable mold, but I also find myself feeling less burnt out than many of my peers completing similar quantities of work per year – as you can imagine, turning your passion into your career can get creatively exhausting. In my opinion, if you don’t feel like you’re taking a risk, you’re not living your life to your fullest capacity. A career in the arts is never a direct path. At least in my experience, there is never a step-by-step route to success. In addition, success (especially in the arts industry) has no definition. Having a career in the arts is like throwing yourself off a ledge into a dark pit in hopes you’ll find a soft landing and the tools to create your own light. A huge fear of mine is the fear of the unknown and the daunting, ever-lingering question of “what if?” Living a life of risk-taking is my way to ensure a life without regrets and the only way I’ve found to diminish the “what if’s?” in the back of my mind. Go big or go home. Go big or life underneath your potential. Risk-taking is my key to a full-cup, and how can you give if you’re empty? A life at your full capacity is one that not only benefits you, but everyone around you – and that is the goal.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I wake up thankful everyday that I have the opportunity to pursue a career in dance. I feel though I have been influenced by many of the artists I have trained under, I have a very unique style of movement and interpretation of music. I am very inspired by everyday interactions, emotion tied with physical sensation, release verses resistance, and the contrast of chaos and simplicity. These concepts are very apparent in almost all of my work. I have always been one to stumble over my words, so my movement is my way to get a point across in the complexity that I am unable to express through speaking. I am inspired by each and every form of dance and I try to train and create without putting myself in a box or genre. A goal of mine is to be as versatile as possible and to never stop adding to my movement vocabulary. No career in the arts ever comes easy to anyone, in my opinion. A constant competitiveness with your peers and with yourself is the only way to stay relevant in the arts, regardless of if you’re in a supportive or toxic community. This is also why I fell in love with it, there is always something to strive for and there is always someone to be inspired by. With that said, I have always had issues with comparing myself to others, especially since you spend most of your time in front of a mirror and being blatantly compared to and judged against the dancer next to you in this line of work. It has taken me a long time to embrace what makes me who I am, and I believe that journey will never be complete, but each day I find a new way to tone down the inner monologue and to appreciate what I have to offer. This is solely because any insecurity I have pales in comparison to my love for dance. As most artists, I chose this career because I wanted to make an impact on others. Art impacts people in the most expected and unexpected ways. I love teaching, choreographing, instructing, and educating.. I love performing for an audience and moving for no one but myself. I want to give to others (dancers and non-dancers alike) everything that dance has given to me. Dance is therapy. I want everyone to be able to experience the incredible gifts that movement has to offer.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I was born in raised in Orange County, California. I I have always enjoyed spending time in Laguna Beach – the beach, the hiking trails, the art galleries, the restaurants, and more. A favorite spot of mine in Laguna that I have gone to since middle school is Zinc Cafe & Market in addition to a small candy shop nearby, Candy Baron.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
With a persistent goal of constant learning and growing, so many people have shaped my life and career. My movement and choreography have been influenced by every choreographer and dancer I have had the honor to share the studio or stage with. These are some of the most influential but not limited to – Jessica Starr and all of the company members of MusEffect. everyone involved with Intrigue Dance Intensive, specifically Holly Ryder Robinson, Matt Cady, and Emma Portner who mentored me on their tour in 2016-2017, the members and board of V Mo directed by Danyel Moulton, and Nikolas Bermea who is constantly pushing my creative limits and opening my mind to possibilities I could have never imagined. Additionally, I would be nowhere without the endless support and acceptance from my parents.
Kristina Kalastchan @purjay
Nominate someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.