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?
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?
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
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.