Emily Bowen

Houston Ballet’s Emily Bowen may be pocket-sized, but don’t underestimate her power. Quick-footed and known for her clean attack, the 21-year-old corps member has chiseled lines that give her a larger presence than her petite 5-foot-1-inch frame. Whether she’s slicing through William Forsythe’s speedy ballet The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude or dancing with delicate charm as one of Gamzatti’s tricky sisters in La Bayadère, audiences are taking notice of this fiery dancer.

A Harrisburg, PA, native, Emily started dancing at age 3. In second grade, when she was asked to draw her grown-up self, Emily drew a picture of a ballerina. “I never wanted to do anything else,” she says. Realizing her daughter was serious about dance, Emily’s mother drove 100 miles a day from the family’s South Carolina home to the North Carolina Dance Theatre School of Dance so her daughter could train with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride.

At 14, Emily attended Houston Ballet’s summer intensive—and never wanted to leave. However, her parents insisted she return home for one more year. “I was angry at the time,” Emily says. “But now, looking back, I’m glad I had that extra year. It made me realize how badly I wanted to dance and just how hard I was willing to work for it.” She returned to Houston at 15 and within a year became a member of Houston Ballet II, the Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy’s preprofessional company.

In 2006, Emily was one of two Houston Ballet II dancers selected by the artistic staff to compete at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. “We felt Emily would grow technically and artistically from the experience,” says Shelly Power, the Academy’s associate director. “Emily’s strong in both classical and contemporary ballet. She also showed us that she had the character to hold herself together in competition.” Power’s instinct was right: Although Emily returned empty-handed in the medal department, she found the experience worthwhile. “It was a good confidence-booster,” she says. “I saw dancers from Russia and Japan who are so well trained, and I was able to see that I was just as good. It helped me prepare to be a professional.”

When she was 18, after just two years with Houston Ballet II, Emily became a corps member with Houston Ballet. “Despite her petite size, Emily has amazing dimension. She is full of personality and she’s not afraid to express herself,” says Stanton Welch, Houston Ballet’s artistic director.

“Emily has proved her worth in each piece she’s been cast in.” Emily has achieved a lot very quickly, but she has Texas-size career goals. Her to-dance list includes ballets by Jirˇí Kylián and Welch, and she wants to be a principal dancer (hopefully with Houston Ballet!). With her combination of razor-sharp technique, beaming stage presence and can-do attitude, the path looks wide open.

 

Fast Facts

Favorite Food: Indian curry

Favorite Movie: White Oleander

Artist Most Played on Your iPod: Radiohead

Perfect Day Off: Sleeping in, relaxing, watching a movie and “no pointe shoes!”

Dance Idol: Sylvie Guillem

Nancy Wozny writes about dance, theater and health from Houston, TX.

Photo of Emily Bowen in William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by Amitava Sarkar.

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search