Emma Davison grew up taking visual art, theatre and dance classes here at the Arts Center and has recently returned to assistant direct and choreograph this weekend’s production of Cinderella with Director/ Choreographer Paige Comparato. Emma, who works at the Spencer Museum of Art, talked with us about everything from getting her start in the arts to behind-the-scenes insights on Cinderella. Read her interview below and join us March 9 & 10 for the School of Dance Double feature of Cinderella and The Lorax!
Tell us about your early years at the Arts Center… Did your time here prepare you for you where you are today?
My first ballet class at the Arts Center was with Eleanor Goudie-Averill, who is the Artistic Director of The Lorax. Having teachers and role models like Ellie, Deborah Bettinger, Ric Averill, Cindy Crews, and many, MANY others absolutely set me on my path to have a career in the arts. My first ever Arts Center class was actually not that ballet class, but a ceramics class back before the current building was built, so dance and theater weren’t the first things I participated in, even though they became my focus during my time as a student. I think that being in an environment where I was exposed to all kinds of artistic expression absolutely prepared me for what I have learned is an increasingly interdisciplinary art world.
What has it been like to return to the Arts Center to assistant direct and choreograph Cinderella?
One of the craziest things is seeing the older dancers in their current roles. When I graduated, they were still very young and not yet en pointe! It’s a treat to come back to work with them now and see how the Arts Center dance family keeps going strong through the “generations.” I am also continually surprised and impressed by the things that the dancers of all ages develop and add to the roles. In the beginning rehearsals, everyone is focused on learning the choreography and getting the technique, but slowly, you see them developing little (often hilarious) character moments here and there that you would never have thought of. Or, they can’t get a certain step at first, and then you see the moment that they nail it. Those are the most rewarding experiences!
Do you have any advice for other young people interested in the arts?
My best advice would be to do it all! If you’re a dancer, try a printing class or a ceramics class. If you’re more interested in the visual arts, push yourself to try performing. Even if you don’t fall in love with something you try, I guarantee it will come in handy someday- maybe in a way you wouldn’t expect.
If a fairy godmother visited you today, what would you wish for?
I would wish for more funding for the arts! Though I suppose I could settle for a pumpkin carriage and some mice-turned-footmen.