When COVID-19 closures swept across the country mid-March, Chris Emile‘s newest work, AMEND, had just begun a run of performances at Los Angeles’ MAK Center. A member of LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican’s inaugural class, Chris is currently an LA-based freelance director and choreographer working in film, fine art, commercial, and opera mediums. In AMEND, he explores Black male identity through movement, cinema, sculpture and sound – employing archival and contemporary found footage with artifactual set design to re-render MAK’s Schindler House into a sacred, private place: a home amenable for Black dealing and healing. An intergenerational cast of three dancers acting as one man, move the audience through the house and through time, working their way through the question: who, if not me, decides what a Black man is?
This month, performances of AMEND resumed at the MAK Center with limited capacity – all showings sold out quickly. A short film version of the work can be viewed on Boiler Room 4:3 for a limited time beginning Wednesday, September 23.
We recently caught up with Chris and asked him to reflect on his time in the LINES Ballet BFA Program. Since graduating in 2010, he has performed with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Morphoses, Luna Negra Dance Theater, and BODYTRAFFIC. His choreographic work has been commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, Solange Knowles, Sao Paolo Opera, Anderson Paak, Moses Sumney, Opera Omaha, the University of Southern California, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and LA Opera for the Pulitzer Prize winning opera p r i s m where he also assistant directed. He has been a guest lecturer at various colleges and is the co-founder/curator of No)one. Art House. Read on to learn to hear how his college experience equipped him for the incredible career that he’s forged over the past decade.
Q&A WITH CHRIS EMILE (BFA ’10)
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current Location: Los Angeles
What drew you to the BFA Program?
It was my dream to dance for LINES Ballet ever since I was a child. I attended the summer program in 2004 and it changed my life. I had a friend who was joining the BFA Program and they told me how much they enjoyed it so I decided to transfer in as a junior and am very happy that I did.
What is one significant skill that you developed in the program and continue to use today?
The BFA Program taught me to always be prepared for anything. The schedule often changed in the program. You may have been mentally prepared for one teacher or class, and be surprised by something completely opposite. Learning to adapt on a constant basis is a skill I value highly in my current life. It keeps me open and receptive, rather than rigid and too pre-planned.
Do you have a favorite memory of student life?
Shortly after I entered the school, I was invited by Alonzo to perform with the Company in their home season. This fulfilled my childhood dream and felt like a good omen for my decision to join the program. Getting the opportunity to learn how the company works, and be immersed in Alonzo’s philosophy in the school was such an eye opening wake up call that made my growth accelerate rapidly.
Is there a particular faculty quote that has stuck with you?
Gregory Dawson used to always say, “When you give, you receive.” It made me investigate my definition of “giving.” There is so much freedom instilled in the teaching at LINES, and it made me understand that artistic liberation could be found in the most minute moments. This “giving” used to feel performative or only for show, but understanding that this porous relinquishing of control could enrich not only my practice, but my whole life changed everything for me. It was a breakthrough.
Summarize your BFA experience in 5 words or less.
Any advice for current BFA students?
Soak up all the information you can from your teachers. Be relentless in the research of your practice every time you get the opportunity to be in the studio. Don’t stray away from what makes you inherently different, dive into your uniqueness wholeheartedly.
LINES Ballet | BFA at Dominican applications are open! The program seeks highly motivated, creative dance artists eager to be challenged. If you’re looking for a deeply personalized, one-of-a-kind college program designed to cultivate your artistry and catapult your career, this is for you.
Photos: © Kevin Scanlon, Tag Christof