With intensive invites, teen ballerinas stay en pointe toward professional dance dreams

STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO

Ballerina Emma Porterfield of Harmony School of Creative Arts is heading to Seattle for the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive July 8-Aug. 10. Photo courtesy of Jenna Petty Photography

Ballerina Emma Porterfield of Harmony School of Creative Arts is heading to Seattle for the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive July 8-Aug. 10. Photo courtesy of Jenna Petty Photography

As ballerinas Jade Gaither and Emma Porterfield politely waited for dance teacher Jane Huber to finish a conversation with a visitor, Emma began light stretching and small dance gestures to warm up. Jade inadvertently pointed her toes outward then stood on them.

The ballerinas, students at Harmony School of Creative Arts in Marble Falls, acknowledged those expressions are relaxing. And the two made them look easy, which explains why they were chosen to participate in summer intensive programs designed to challenge and demand the very best from selectees.

Emma, 13, will head to Seattle to participate in the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive July 8-Aug. 10, while 14-year-old Jade will study in the American Ballet Theatre intensive program on the University of Texas at Austin campus in July. The girls’ auditions were in front of some of the top dancers, dance teachers, and choreographers from around the world and against some incredible competition, Jade said.

The two auditioned for both programs in the middle of January at the University of Texas. Jade received an email from the American Ballet Theatre welcoming her to the program, while Emma was forced to wait for hers to arrive by mail.

Both want to be professional dancers and believe participating in these intensives can get them closer to realizing their dreams.

Emma, who stands 4 feet 6 inches, began dancing when she was 9 and was a quick study. She can watch what others are doing and copy it immediately but with better precision, she said.

She credits that skill for her selection to the Pacific Northwest Ballet program. Her shorter stature, which helps her stand out, might have also played a role in her selection.

Emma auditioned in front of one of the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive directors. The director gave dancers different dance combinations to execute then watched how quickly each ballerina could perform it on the dance floor.

The daughter of Bonnie and Tice Porterfield was one of the last performers to audition, so she had the advantage of seeing all the combinations.

“You watch everyone else go,” she said. “You get to watch corrections.”

Ballerina Jade Gaither of Harmony School of Creative Arts will spend July in the the American Ballet Theatre intensive program on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Jenna Petty Photography

Ballerina Jade Gaither of Harmony School of Creative Arts will spend July in the the American Ballet Theatre intensive program on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Jenna Petty Photography

Jade, who is 5-4, began dancing when she was 6. It was a challenging discipline. She took a year off to study gymnastics but returned when she realized she was built better for dancing.

It’s a decision she doesn’t regret.

“It’s an amazing way to express yourself,” Jade said of ballet.

Intensive programs require that dancers work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the week. At the end of the programs, the performers will be part of a showcase to demonstrate to an audience what they learned.

“You’re rubbing shoulders with girls from all over,” said Jade, the daughter of Jessica and Jei Gaither. “You see other dancers your age. It’s helpful for you to see what’s possible.”

The two currently participate in four dance classes a week along with their homeschool schedules. Emma likes to take classes with older dancers because it forces her to tackle more challenging combinations.

Huber, who teaches ballet at Harmony School of Creative Arts, said both girls take other forms of dance, adding it’s “important to have a few other techniques.”

But the ballerinas’ accomplishments haven’t surprised those around them. Huber noted the two are very dedicated, spending hours fine tuning a move or a combination until it looks flawless.

“If you try your hardest, you can be your best,” Jade said.

Both girls know the summer intensives are going to demand a lot from them, but they said they’re looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m ready for something really hard,” Emma said. “It’ll be a great experience.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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