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 JirË‡í 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.
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.