Quinn Wharton

The Music That Keeps Emma Portner Inspired—And How She Really Feels About That Justin Bieber Collab

As anyone who follows her on Instagram knows, when Emma Portner isn't working on high-profile projects—like Netflix's "Umbrella Academy" and a collaboration with Vogue and Saks—she's in the studio, dancing to a wide array of music that the word "eclectic" doesn't even begin to capture. She describes her taste as: "Audio-theater meets spoken word meets lo-fi meets classical. I could hop from Carnegie Hall to a jazz club to an underground DJ set to a Mitski concert all in the same night if I ever wanted to."

As part of our playlist series, we talked to Portner about her favorite songs, how she finds new music and how she really feels about the Justin Bieber video that launched her into the spotlight back in 2015:


On Her #1 Go-To Song

"'Love' has been the first track on most of my playlists for many many years. Mica Levi is an utter genius. It feels neutral—as far as sound can go—but still so emotionally potent. If the word 'melt' were a song, this would be it. Mica's entire 'Under the Skin' album is one of the best film scores I've ever heard."

How She Finds New Music

"I am searching for new music 50 percent of the time. That is not a joke. Music can regulate my emotions and that is a difficult thing for me to do on my own. I make a lot of Spotify radio stations and do a lot of Soundcloud stalking. It's often a lengthy process that feels somewhat invasive. But it is worth it when you find something really special. I'm often looking for artists who haven't yet been discovered, or NYC-based musicians I can collaborate with in real life."

What Robyn's "Missing U" Means to Her

"Robyn took an eight year hiatus and came back stronger than ever. It really encouraged me to look at myself on a deeper level to evaluate how much I can handle. Bending and breaking are very different things. Sadness and depression. Pain and damage. She acknowledged these differentiations and that is radically powerful. I dance to this almost every day because she manages to get such positive musical energy around some pretty sad ideas. She is basically the queen of making me bop while I weep."

Why She Loves Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?"

"One of my favorite Canadian choreographers, Linda Garneau, choreographed an incredibly moving piece to this song for my studio back when I was a competition student. I've always related to it. I dealt with a house fire when I was a kid and the first line of the song is 'I remember when I was a little girl, our house caught on fire.' Ouch. I love her idea of dancing through life's pain."

Her Relationship to Music In the Studio

"Sometimes it drives everything and sometimes I completely ignore it. I don't often like to be tied to one track when creating. I like being able to take a phrase that was made to Max Richter and put it to Missy Elliott. "

Yes, There's A Song Called "Who's Afraid of Justin Bieber"

"I mean, come on. That's hilarious. I often feel mild embarrassment towards my Bieber appearances within the concert dance world now. I have really changed over the last few years and this track just makes me laugh."

Latest Posts


Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS

Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS
contest
Enter Our Video Contest