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in the spotlight Jacqueline Porter and The Dallas Conservatory byKatieDravenstott J

acqueline Porter knewat age 6what shewanted to dowith her life.After seeingAmericanBallet Theatre’s (ABT) retelling of La Sylphide at LincolnCenter Porter recalls, “Carla Fracci’s exquisite

face,ErikBruhn’s jumps, beautifulmusic, the balcony, fur coats, beauty everywhere.And I thought: this ismy life!”

Already an award-winning Scottish dancer studying at hermother’s school in Pennsylvania, Porter started classical ballet lessons at 8when the familymoved toErie. She traveled an hour in each direction to the ErieCivicBallet, commuting 6-7 daysweekly, often in Pennsylvania blizzards.Early professional cues about Porter’s talent kept the family motivated.Guest choreographers picked her out for special casting, and guest artists staying at the Porter home noted her unusual sense of style andmusicality. The dance department head atMercyhurst University even invited Porter to take classwith the university during the day,which she did in place of high school gymclasses.

However, itwas during her first summer atCentral Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) that Porter sawwhat top notch training reallywas. “Whilemy own training had been excellent,whatMarciaDaleWeary was giving her studentswas even better,” Porter says. “She never just showed a step or a combination; she outlined eachmoment of every movement, like a goldenmap for success.No teacher inmy lifetime – of the dozens of greats I’ve had over three decades includingDavid Howard and Finis Jhung – has influencedmy own teachingmore thanMarciaDaleWeary.”

Over the years Porter has become nationally known for her exuberant teaching of classical ballet, specializing in early development, aswell as her training ofwell-rounded dancers at TheDallasConservatory (TDC) which she founded in 2010.Christina Johnson,RehearsalDirector at ComplexionsContemporaryBallet remarks, “Whatever Jacqueline is doing,we needmore of her. I have been around atmany of theworld’s best schools and this is some of the best training I’ve seen.” International choreographer andmaster teacherCarlosDos Santos is a regular visitor and he adds, “It is easy to domywork at TDCbecause Jacqueline has already done it forme.Her kids can do anything.”

Porter relocated toDallas in 2007 seeking a newlife after her fiancée died tragically of a heart attack onstage at theKennedyCenter in 2004. He had been starring in a playwithMikhailBaryshnikovwhen he col- lapsed.Wanting to findmeaning in her life, Porter specifically chose Dallas for its burgeoning arts scene, feeling she could help tomake a difference.Andwhile Porter is a relative newcomer to Texas fromNew

Pictured: Jacqueline Porter teaching at TheDallas Conservatory

York, she is no newcomer to dancing. She has been teaching for 37 years and dancing for 51.

“I started teaching jazz at 12 inmymother’s school before I’d had a single jazz classmyself,” Porter says. “Later, at SmithCollege andNYC as a professional dancer/actress, I’d teach anything thatmoved, and advertised to theworld that Iwas doing it.Because ofmy love for marketing I’ve always had students.”

The outcome of Porter’s entrepreneurial spirit is that since 1974 she has taught some 5,000 students on four continents in venues ranging from private ballet schools to international povertymissions toHollywood producers’ homes. “Happily formy teaching chops,” Porter says earnestly, “most ofmy students have been dance-loving people,with- out any unusual talent. It has forcedme to figure out howto get a human being to dancewell.”

Porter founded TDCin 2010 tomaximize her skills andRolodex and to give somethingworthwhile to her adopted city ofDallas-FortWorth. She hand-picked her best students fromParkCitiesDance (the first school she founded in 2008) and established TheDallasConservatory.

With every choice shemade concerning the conservatory Porter says, “I set aboutmaking the building blocks of a private institution thatwould be shaped byme, but outliveme by 100 years ormore. I engaged the very best teachers inDFW, filled the gaps by hiring from around the country, and after threemonths announced our first public auditions.”

The school is expanding to have its own campus in the coming decade, housing a full spectrumof the arts. It runs an increasingly high-profile international summer program, and in 2015-16 instituted a successful daytime academic programin conjunctionwithMcKinney School District. Since opening TDC, Jacqueline Porter has twicewon the Outstanding TeacherAward at YouthAmericaGrand Prix (YAGP), and personally trained fromscratch a record number of YAGPwinning dancers that currently exceeds any single teacher inAmerica.

Her goal for 2016? “More sleep,” she laughs, “to keepmy brain cells ready for all that is to come.”More information about TDCis available

KatieDravenstott is a freelancewriter and dance instructor inDallas.Visit her blog

DANCE!NORTHTEXAS a publication of the dance council of north texas vol. 19 • no. 1 Feb.-Apr. 2016 page 5

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