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Spotlight: Emma Portner On The Surprisingly Bad Advice She Once Received

It's easy to feel whiplashed thinking about everything Emma Portner has achieved in such a short amount of time. Last fall, the 23-year-old was the youngest woman ever to choreograph a West End production (it was based on Meat Loaf's greatest hits). This was, of course, after she already choreographed and starred in Justin Bieber's viral hit "Life is Worth Living," and before she charmed major media outlets when she secretly married actress Ellen Page. Now, she's L.A. Dance Project's first-ever artist in residence, and she's working on a commission for Toronto's Fall for Dance North Festival.

We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:


What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?

When I meet new people and tell them that I am a dancer, their first questions are usually something like "Where do you dance?" or "What's your company called?" As a freelance dance artist and choreographer, it's a little more difficult to respond to that.

What was the last dance performance you saw?

Malpaso Dance Company at The Music Center in Los Angeles

What other career would you like to try?

Film directing or real estate

What's the most-played song on your phone?

Pool Party by Julia Jacklin

What's the first item on your bucket list?

Write a screenplay

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

Arrive hours early for mental preparation, abdominals, push-ups, caffeine and "save it for the stage."

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

In this phase of my life, sitting in my backyard with anyone who came to support the performance.

What's your favorite book?

Any book by Rebecca Solnit

Where did you last vacation?

Joshua Tree, California

What app do you spend the most time on?

Instagram

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

To name a few: Ian Eastwood, Crystal Pite, Alexander Ekman, Justin Peck, and I always love dancing with my wife, Dana Wilson, Patrick Cook, Bobbi Jene Smith, Ajani Johnson-Goffe and Aidan Carberry

What's your go-to cross-training routine?

Hiking

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

That I shouldn't move to New York

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

Michelle Dorrance's first Myelination premiere for the Fall For Dance Festival at New York City Center or my Capezio Ace Awards piece "Let Go or Be Dragged" with some of my best friends in the world

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What It Was Like When Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was in the Audience—or Backstage

The 27 years that Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent on the U.S. Supreme Court were 27 years that she spent as one of Washington, D.C.'s most ardent, elegant and erudite supporters of the performing arts. The justice, who died on September 18 of metastatic cancer, was also an avid cultural tourist, traveling to the Santa Fe and Glimmerglass operas nearly every summer, as well as occasionally returning to catch shows in her native New York City.

Ginsburg's opera fandom was well known, but her tastes were wide-ranging. Particularly in the last 10 years of her life, after Ginsburg lost her beloved husband, Marty, it was not unusual for the petite justice and her security detail to be spotted at theaters several nights a week. She saw everything, from classic musicals to serious new plays, plus performances that defied classification, like Martha Clarke's dance drama Chéri, with Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, which toured to the Kennedy Center in 2014.

To honor Ginsburg, Dance Magazine asked three dance artists whose performances the justice attended to recall what Ginsburg meant to them.

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