Dancer Spotlight: Dedicated Explorer

There is something refreshing about 23-year-old Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company member Emily Proctor. Perhaps it’s her calm, quiet nature, her modest attitude or her everlasting desire to learn and improve. Whatever it is, her admirable work ethic has made her a valuable addition to the ASFB roster.

“Emily’s a maniac when it comes to working,” says Tom Mossbrucker, artistic director of ASFB. “And she’s got a brain on top of being a beautiful dancer.”

Proctor grew up in North Carolina, where she spent her high school years training in the ballet program at North Carolina School of the Arts. Despite this background, a career was not a forgone conclusion. “Dancing has always been a stop-and-go thing for me,” says Proctor. “I wasn’t the type to have pointe shoes in my room, and I didn’t know if I wanted to be in a company.”

However, Proctor is “not laid back when it comes to dancing,” she says, adding, “especially training. Although I grew up focusing on classical ballet technique, I was just never sure that I would fit in at a big ballet company. There’s something about my body type. I feel I’m more suited for contemporary. I’m more turned in than turned out.”

She worked hard at NCSA, performed in The Nutcracker with Carolina Ballet, and in 2003 enrolled at Juilliard, where she could feed her passion for contemporary movement.

At Juilliard, Proctor studied Limón, Horton, Graham, Cunningham and Taylor techniques, on top of daily ballet classes. She also performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Hell’s Kitchen Dance company in Aszure Barton’s Come In, on a national and international tour.

Mossbrucker noticed her in class while she was at Juilliard, and offered her a job. After graduating, and without thinking too much about it, Proctor moved across the country to Colorado and became the “new girl” in a company whose members have been there for anywhere from 4 to 12 years. Luckily, “everyone is nurturing and very accepting,” says Proctor. It does help that she made the move with her boyfriend and now fellow ASFB dancer, Nolan DeMarco McGahan.

In a company of 11 dancers, Proctor gets substantial performance time. She has held her own in works by Itzik Galili, Helen Pickett, Jorma Elo and others. 

“We’re thrilled about Emily,” says Mossbrucker. “She’s a striking performer and has a wonderful persona onstage.”

Yet Proctor says she wants to build up her confidence. “A lack of confidence can keep you worrying all the time that you aren’t good enough,” she says. “It gets in the way if you want to go onstage and give fully to the choreography.”

Although she has not outlined precise future goals, she knows that she wants to continue to learn about herself and expose others to the power of dance. “The most valuable opportunity that dancing offers is the chance to reach new levels of awareness within yourself every day,” she says. “It’s hard to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but you never know what your work will mean to other people, and it’s always exciting to strive for self-improvement every day in that way.”

Laura Di Orio dances and writes in New York City.

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