The world isn't always a welcoming place for LGBTQIA+ people. But for those figuring out their sexuality, dance can provide welcome opportunities for expression. We talked to five star dancers about their experiences coming out and growing up, and how dance helped them live their full truth.
Today was, up until a few hours ago, just your average Wednesday—the holidays are officially over, there's a monster storm literally called a "bomb cyclone" churning towards NYC, and I ran out of good snacks. But during a casual afternoon scroll through Instagram, I happened upon this:
Here at Dance Spirit, we're constantly in awe of Emma Portner. The powerhouse choreographer, dancer, and November 2016 cover star is never not busy, constantly diving into new projects, while posting a stream of choreo videos that are breathtaking, innovative, and genre bending. (Is it just us, or does everyone else get lost in her Instagram feed for hours on end? 🙋🏻 )
At this point, it's safe to say Emma Portner's imagination knows no bounds. The November 2016 cover star is constantly creating (I'm talking a new, stunning choreo clip on Instagram a day), and her latest project, a collaboration with Ajani Johnson-Goffe called "Lavender," gives us some serious feels.
When we think of amazing up-and-coming choreographers here at DS, especially those with a style all their own, Emma Portner tops pretty much everyone's list. Her Instagram is a treasure in itself, with dozens upon dozens of clips featuring her impossibly unique moves, and her contribution to Justin Bieber's "Purpose: The Movement," "Life Is Worth Living," is easily my favorite dance-meets-music-video collaboration of recent memory. So, naturally, when she releases a new dance video, it's a big day. Portner's latest creation is called "33 GOD," set to a Bon Iver song of the same name. Her crazy-cool movement quality is apparent from the first step, and she and Brian Davis keep us transfixed until the very end. Check it out for yourselves:
I say this publicly and without shame: I, Margaret Fuhrer, a fully-grown woman, spent much of my weekend watching Justin Bieber's "Purpose: The Movement" dance movie on repeat.
Look: I've had my ups and downs with Bieber over the years. We all have. He knows it. But you have to respect this insanely ambitious, insanely dance-y, insanely GOOD new project, which dropped Saturday. Leave it to Bieber to both over-promise and over-deliver on a premise that sounded iffy when it was first announced (dance videos for all 13 of the new album's tracks? Okaaaay) and now just seems brilliant (13 AMAZING DANCE VIDEOS AHHHHHH).
This isn't just a love letter to the Biebs, though. The person we should really be most in awe of right now is Parris Goebel, the genius 24-year-old choreographer who directed the whole thing. In addition to choreographing many of the tracks herself, Goebel pulled in an unbelievable number of dance stars to perform in and create for the various videos. There's a spirit of generosity to the project—she not only wants to show what she can do, but also what the people she admires can do.
Nobody disappoints. And much as we loved the cotton-candy happiness of "Sorry," "Purpose: The Movement" isn't all unicorns and rainbows. Several of the videos are genuinely dark—and genuinely moving.
November cover stars Keone and Mari Madrid create a gently heartbreaking portrait of one-sided love in "Love Yourself":
A fantastic cast of dancers, including our friend Janelle Ginestra, depict a searingly tragic love triangle in "The Feeling":
And that's not even the half of it. ("Sorry" fans, for example, will be happy to know that the lovely ladies of ReQuest and The Royal Family make appearances in several videos.) Check out the full dance movie here.
Also, THANK YOU, Bieber and Goebel, for crediting every single one of the choreographers and dancers featured in the videos. Note to the music industry: Let's make that a habit.
Emma Portner is at a crossroads. At only 21 years old, she's already had the kind of opportunities most seasoned pros dream of: starring in a viral dance video, choreographing for Justin Bieber, working on a Broadway-bound musical, teaching internationally and performing at venues like New York City Center. Portner is playing by her own rules and embracing the challenges of being a choreographer, company director and dancer in nearly every style—and all at once. So where will she take her career next? Where will she focus her time?