Dancer Spotlight: Beyond Fear

Pacific Northwest Ballet corps member Emma Love never expected to perform as one of the flirtatious women in Jirí Kylián’s Sechs Tänze. Then barely a year in the corps, Love was fourth in line for the part. But when other dancers got injured, she went on, handling Kylián’s idiosyncrasies with aplomb. It was tangible proof of the potential that PNB artistic director Peter Boal says he could see in Love when she was 15 and “trembling like a leaf” in auditions for the company’s school.

At 5' 9", with striking extensions, Love has the classic proportions of a Balanchine ballerina. But she didn’t blossom overnight. Love grew up in Wichita, Kansas, studying the Cecchetti method at Rogers Ballet school. A 2005 summer intensive at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet ignited her interest in Balanchine. She soon learned about PNB’s Balanchine-rich repertoire and its reputation for welcoming tall dancers.

Accepted to PNB’s school in 2006, Love spent her first six months in Seattle attending both the school’s top level and the Professional Division, where the emphasis shifts from technique to artistry. Her hyperextended legs and loose muscles presented challenges. She learned she needed to get stronger, and she struggled with turns and jumps.

The jumps she unleashes now she credits in part to the 2007 Flemming Halby Exchange program between PNB’s school and the Royal Danish Ballet. Love and Andrew Bartee (now a fellow corps member) spent three weeks in Copenhagen immersed in the Bournonville style, dancing in company class each morning, with apprentice classes in the afternoon. There, Love found out why her jumps lacked power: She was cutting her plié short. Using her seat muscles and new timing, she gained lift. She practiced diligently until her body caught up with her new approach.

In 2008, she became a PNB apprentice, and entered the corps a year later. “For me, the biggest thing is fear of a step you think you can’t do,” confesses Love. That fear sidetracked her briefly. She found herself holding back, and getting passed over for roles. Gradually she realized that, in rehearsal, even the best dancers try and fail.

As her confidence increased, she started to put her hand up more. She was not afraid to approach Boal and ask, “Can I learn this part I’ve had my eye on?” Motivation and grit paid off in this spring’s Swan Lake. Love asked to learn as many parts as she could, besides the roles in which she was officially cast. She ended up dancing in all 11 shows: as a princess, a swan in the pas de trois and in the czardas in Act III, to name just a few of her roles.

During PNB’s recent trip to New York, Love was cast in Concerto Barocco and substituted for an injured corps dancer in Agon. Boal thinks of her often for Balanchine works: “Agon is a great example where she’s right for the corps, but she’s also right for the pas de trois. What’s striking about Emma is that she approaches everything with such intelligence.” He ranks her now among the top of his corps, someone he looks to for demi-soloist and soloist roles.

She and her fiancé, Price Suddarth (also in PNB’s corps and a “natural turner,” she says), will be married this August. Both love to cook, and hike with their dogs. About four times a week, Love does cardio-heavy elliptical workouts for her legs, or swims 30 laps for a good full-body workout.

After seeing Love’s performance in Ulysses Dove’s Vespers in 2010, Boal has had her try more contemporary work on for size: David Dawson’s grueling A Million Kisses to my Skin and Mark Morris’ 2012 world premiere at PNB, Kammermusik No. 3.

“I feel at home in Balanchine,” says Love, “but I love—love—a lot of the new works.” More may be on the way.

At a Glance 

Emma Love

Age: 24

Training: Rogers Ballet Inc., Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Favorite role: A Million Kisses to my Skin

Dream roles: Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, First Girl in Red Angels, Tall Girl in "Rubies"

Latest Posts

Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Butternut Squash Takes Center Stage This Fall—Plus, 2 Easy Recipes

Whether it's cubed and roasted or puréed into a comforting soup, butternut squash takes center stage this fall. The flavorful seasonal favorite is an excellent nutritional choice for dancers. Here's what's packed into one serving:

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: The Joffrey Ballet's Dara Holmes

A seasoned dancer, Dara Holmes' career with The Joffrey Ballet has consisted of a lot of heavy lifting in the ensemble. "As a new company member, I was onstage all the time," says Holmes, 28. "The older you get, the more you start to appreciate your body and want to preserve it. If I want to keep dancing and do bigger roles, I need to be healthy."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks