Clad in her signature loose black T-shirt and baggy gym shorts, Emma Portner is standing in a cavernous industrial space in downtown Los Angeles. A glass box—big enough to fit five dancers with only a little room to maneuver inside—sits in the middle. The five performers, Portner included, are standing inside it, side by side, palms on the glass.
“Question,” Portner asks. “Are we looking at our hands?”
She steps out to watch the others try the phrase, and adds a few more steps. Quick, staccato movement, legs kicking out, torsos swiveling around, fists hitting glass. “This is a puzzle,” she says, almost to herself. “I’m not sure I’ll like it.” The statement, like so many, is punctured with a sweet, nervous laugh.
Portner, 23, may be soft-spoken, but she’s a powerhouse mover. Anyone who has seen her Instagram videos can recognize the ferocity with which she throws her body—and seemingly her soul—into each moment.
That said, the energy in the rehearsal space is anything but frenetic. A calm, collaborative feel permeates. “What do we need to do next?” she asks the dancers. “Is everyone okay?”
It was a total joy to write about the incredible choreographer/dancer/revolutionary, Emma Portner, for Dance Magazine. Read the full cover story here.
[Photo by Quinn Wharton]
For months my daughter has been taking ballet and tap at the local recreation center, and she recently came to the requisite end-of-year performance. My kid is only four, so her part was minimal—a few short, absurd appearances, flanked by all the other little giggling girls in her class. The real show started and ended with the older girls. I knew I wasn’t in store for something professional, but I still didn’t expect what was coming.
Read more at Motherwell!
Paul Taylor, a legend of the dance world, was the first dance I ever saw, at age 4, at Jacob’s Pillow. I fell in love right there.
He died yesterday, at age 88, and will be so deeply missed.
Over ten years ago I wrote an homage to my favorite piece of his, “Esplanade,” for Dance Magazine. The dance still makes me weep.
To see this marvelous piece of choreography, click here. Do yourself a favor and watch all five parts.
It’s summer, August maybe, and our family’s boxy purple Peugeot is parked at a rest stop gas station. My father pumps gas in his leather sandals. My 13-year-old sister, Rachel, slumps in the backseat, listening to her Walkman with her hood up over her ears. My mother, in a billowy fuchsia sundress, stands next to the passenger’s side of the car with the door open, one sandaled foot propped up on the runner, one palm resting on the top of the car, waiting. Her gray hair is cut very short. Her oval glasses take over much of her face.
I’m five, and have gotten out of the car to dance around on the cement for a few minutes, my white Tretorns, striped T-shirt, and shorts glistening in the sun. I skip over little puddles of oil between the cars, making a game out of not getting my feet wet.
There are several adults clustered around the pumps, filling their cars. I hop over to one of them, look up and say, “My Mommy had babies that died.” Then over to another: “My Mommy had babies that died.”
My mother did, indeed, have babies that died; so did my father, of course. I guess my sister did, too — baby-siblings. But these babies — a boy, a stillbirth at 23 weeks, and a girl a year later, at 24 weeks, both big enough to swell my mother’s belly but small enough to fit in the palm of my father’s hand — died seven and eight years earlier, respectively. I came next; I was the one who made it.
Read more at Modern Loss.
When the two stragglers let the door clatter shut behind them, I turn the lights in the restaurant’s dining room all the way up and zip over to the stereo. For the past few months, we’ve been blasting the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” while closing. We all sing You may ask yourself, my God, what have I done? while manning brooms and mops and rags, none of us aware that we are singing of our own lives. At the chorus, we give in, drop what we’re doing and dance: Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down…
Keep reading by clicking here.
Thanks, Longreads, for publishing this!
Happy Spring, all! I’m delighted to share three new pieces.
I wrote about my inability to make decisions on my own for Lenny.
I wrote about how much I love my own Mama for Mother’s Day for Land’s End Journal.
And! I wrote about getting up at the crack of dawn to have some time for myself (for crying out loud!). (It will shock no one to learn that since I published this, my kid’s been waking up much earlier. #Momfail.) This one was for Healthline.
I had the delightful experience of talking with the folks over at the new podcast, Restoration Row, about chronic pain, identity, mental health, and recovery. How does pain change us? And is that okay?
(Yes, yes, it is.)
Click over here to listen to the podcast. (Interview begins around 14:00.) To hear my Lenny Letter piece read aloud (beautifully–that accent!), don’t skip ahead!