Sarah Emery & the Moving Poets

Written by Shane “Mr. Red” Elks

Sarah Emery and the Moving Poets are Moving Back in Together
Interview by : Shane Elks

Sarah Emery & The Moving PoetsCharlotte is home to many great artists but none greater than the hand full of professional dancers that call our city home. One of those amazing, yet humble spirits is Sarah Emery. I always find myself forcing my jaw closed from the shocking yet exquisite artistry I am experiencing when watching Sarah dance. When Sarah moves, her passion shines through. Which is why I am so uber-excited about her being a huge part of bringing Charlotte's long lost dance company The Moving Poets back to us!

Shane: When did you begin dancing?
Sarah: I began dancing at age 4.

Shane: What was the first moment when you realized this was what you were meant to do?
Sarah: I cannot remember the exact moment, but I was around the age of 10. My first teacher encouraged me to try a different studio because she felt I needed to grow. I am so thankful to her for that. My Mom took me to a school that concentrated more on classical training (where I was exposed to a professional atmosphere). I fell in love with it immediately. At that time, I think what I enjoyed the most was the challenge and the confidence it gave me. I knew I had found something that would be a part of my future.

Shane: How did you get involved with teaching and Open Door Studios?
Sarah: Dancers tend to have pretty short dancing careers so I think most of us try out teaching at some point. When I was younger I never thought I would want to teach. I remember other dancers would ask me to sub their classes and I was scared to death because I had no experience. As I started to realize I needed something to fall back on, I felt like I wanted to make even more use of the incredible amount of hours and training I had received during my youth. Probably around 2002 I decided to put my resume out to studios and really give it a try. My first teaching job was at a competition school, which was very different than what I was used to. I’ve never been taught how to teach dance so it has been a great learning process figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I started teaching at Open Door around the time it opened. I got to know the owner, Jacque White, while taking dance classes in the community. She needed teachers and I really liked the concept of the studio. She wanted to make dance accessible and fun for all ages and backgrounds. She has been such a strong force in the dance community and she inspires me as a teacher and dancer.

Shane: Don't you just love teaching? Do you find that it makes you strive to also be a better artist?
Sarah: Absolutely. I feel so energized after teaching a class. I love sharing my knowledge and love for dance and seeing others get excited about something that I am passionate about. Of course there are many challenges I face as a teacher and like you mentioned, these challenges help to form me into a better artist and person. It has also taught me a lot about myself.

Shane: What brought about your original placement as a dancer for Moving Poets?
Sarah: I had quit dancing for 2 years after dancing for a couple of classical ballet companies. I had become bored with dance and had also run out of the drive I needed to continue to succeed in a very competitive profession. I was living in Charlotte after dancing with North Carolina Dance Theatre for a short time and had seen the Moving Poets’ first show, which was performed in an intimate setting of an old abandoned church. They performed the piece "Contact" which we will be bringing back to the stage in October. I absolutely loved the gritty feel of the setting and the fact that they had a painter on stage that was painting on the dancers. I knew the artistic director/co-founder, Till Schmidt Rimpler, from North Carolina Dance Theatre so a few months later, after much thought, I called him. I told him I wanted to dance and he said in his very casual, German manner "sure, come on by and check it out." So I did, and was in my first show with them, Romeo and Juliet, in 1999. I knew that the company was a great fit for me. That is when I became an artist and not just a technician. I loved the closeness of the company and the endless amount of creativity and collaboration we experienced.

Shane: The first time I saw you dance for The Moving Poets I was in awe! You are such a laid back gal. It is always amazing to see someone in their element! You are amazing. I have seen you dance many times...superbly, but when I have seen you with The Moving Poets it seemed as though your expertise was fully brought to fruition. The choreography and setting was unique and thought provoking without a sense of pretension in the air! How does The Moving Poets differ from any other company you have been a part of?
Sarah: Wow, Shane, you are very kind. Thank you, your flattery means a lot.
The Moving Poets were raw and not afraid to try new things. Sometimes we really hit the mark and other times missed. That was part of what made us exciting…the unexpected. Most of the other companies I’ve been apart of concentrated only on dance. The Moving Poets combined other art disciplines to create a multi-faceted dance theater production. We’ve included live musicians on stage, video, sculpture, painters, singers, light installations, rappers, poets, etc. We also many times included artists from various types of backgrounds, ages and regions from around the world. Our goal was to entertain, inspire and evoke the mind and emotion. If we weren’t telling a story we were exploring questions or themes found around the world in arts and humanities.

Shane: When I heard of The Moving Poets departure from Charlotte I was devastated for Charlotte in general! What was the reason for the company to leave us and head back to Berlin?
Sarah: The main reason was funding. We were very grateful for the amazing support that we received from supporters and various foundations over the years. However, I think that we hit a plateau and had exhausted our efforts. We needed more to keep going and it just wasn’t available. We had an extremely small staff of artists and were trying to do much more than we could handle.

Shane: What has changed to bring the company back?
Sarah: A number of things. For one we are refreshed and ready to approach things from different angles. Till and I will be working as a team in Charlotte and Berlin, and I think that we compliment each other very well. We have changed our mission slightly. We want to focus a lot more on collaboration and the creative process. We will have fewer productions each year and create a space that serves as an incubator for the arts. We have established a permanent space in Berlin where artists from different disciplines are free to create and produce small performances, workshops, concerts and exhibitions. In addition to large productions, we want to create a similar space here in Charlotte. Not only have we grown but I think that since we left Charlotte in 2006, Charlotte has grown too. We hope to have continued support from our past audience members as well as new.

Shane: Do you find the city embracing your return?
Sarah: More than we could have imagined. The response to our Revival party and fundraiser was overwhelming and humbling. It is exciting to be back and to feel so embraced.

Shane: I noticed you are beginning auditions for company members. Beside yourself, will there be any other original members returning to the company?
Sarah: Yes. We are still in the process of reaching out to past artists, but we will definitely have at least 2 additional past dancers as well as many returning artists including actors, painters, choreographers, writers, musicians and designers.

Shane: Your debut or shall we say come back show is scheduled for this coming Fall. Should we expect the same thought provoking mixture of music, poetry, visual art and dance as in the days of past Moving Poets' shows? What are some new things we should be curious about?
Sarah: We will be coming back in true Moving Poets fashion, fusing many art forms. There will be a piece from the past, a piece that has been created in Berlin and a premiere created in Charlotte. We are in the beginning stages of creation but I can say, expect the unexpected.

Shane: Now, are you all going to make us fall back in love with you and then up and leave again? Or are The Moving Poets here to stay?
Sarah: We can’t predict the future but we certainly hope and plan to stay as long as Charlotte wants us to.

Shane: What are some words of advice you would give to dancers in the area wishing to be a part of The Moving Poets?
Sarah: If you are truly passionate about dance and exploring the depth of your abilities as an artist and dancer then we’d love to meet you. Not only are we looking for unique and talented dancers, but we are also looking for true artists who can be open to exploration and growth. The best dancers are the ones who let their hearts move them.

Shane: What are some words of advice you would give to patrons wondering if they should view a show of The Moving Poets?
Sarah: Be curious. Be moved. Be there.


Shane Elks   Shane Elks

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