Claire Porter (born December 23, 1942) is an American choreographer/comedian known for blending comedic monologues with dance movement. She is also an award-winning performer, author, and dance educator whose dance works, which she refers to as Portables, have been produced by various dance organizations, college theater programs and venues around the world.
Claire Porter was born in New Britain, Connecticut, where, as a child, she was a star athlete and danced in a local studio. After she earned her BA in Mathematics from the College of New Rochelle in New York, she became a computer programmer for G.E. Analytical Engineering in Schenectady, New York. Porter returned to her dancing roots after witnessing a performance by Maria Tallchief. She then attended Sonoma State University in California from 1969-1973. At Sonoma State, she studied dance, taught Family Dance, Exercise, and Children’s Dance, and directed a dance company of 12 members. Porter eventually moved from California to Ohio to study dance at Ohio State University. It was there that Porter discovered Laban Movement Analysis and began exploring gestures, acting, writing, and voice. She later received her certification for Laban Movement Analysis at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies NYC. She earned her MA in Dance from Ohio State and has continued the exploration of gestural movement as a teacher, choreographer and performer.
Porter’s Portables are a number of comedic movement monologues and group theater dance pieces. Although these works have taken the comedic route, they were not initially created to be funny. The comedic interpretation was a result of how her audience viewed her works. She came up with the name Portables when she was leaving Ohio State University. It is a pun on Porter’s last name as well as a sentimental way of signifying that she planned to take her dance works with her when she graduated. She is also said to call her works Portables because they can be performed in both small and large spaces. Each Portable is about 12 minutes in length, so about 5 or 6 Portables are performed at each concert.
Portables: solo works and some brief descriptions
- Namely, Muscles
- Piano – A pianist is ready to perform for an audience, but the piano hasn’t arrived
- Lost in the Modern – Contemplation of modern life and art
- Green Dress Circle
- Fund Raiser – A solicitor for funds has to deal with a hostile audience
- Fitness Digest – A physical fitness teacher conducts a class of imaginary pupils
- Dining Out – A calm diner grows increasingly tipsy.
- Slipping into Weather
- Ordering Greens
- If My Words Wore Boots
- Planted Feet
Portables: group works and some brief descriptions
- It’s About Time
- Time Walking
- Walk Walk Walk
- Between the Lines
- Frieze Frame
- Boot Reports
- Too Much on My Plate – Waiters and waitresses struggle with more than just the specials of the day
- Panel – Two men and two women make up the International Decisions Panel, which makes decisions about the possibility of making decisions.
- “Panel, though often amusing, lacked a truly effective comic punchline. However, Laura Clayton's nervous score perfectly matched the nervous choreography.”
- “The solo was intermittently funny. But Ms. Porter is rather self-conscious about it all, and Piano becomes an unfulfilled one-joke piece.”
- “Ms. Porter made her points economically. She could have roamed nervously about, demonstrating outlandish exercises; she could have assigned other dancers the roles of timid or bumbling students. Instead, she kept her sketch a solo and sat on a stool. And by doing little - but by doing everything so that the slightest movement counted - she made Fitness Digest a satirical cartoon drawn in black ink with the sharpest of strokes.”
- “The effect of "Fitness Digest" was of wandering into an aerobics class conducted by a mild-mannered lunatic at breakneck speed.”
- “The setting was a little restaurant surrounded by trees festooned hauntingly with coats, designed by Power Boothe. A wistful blank-faced waiter, played by Ms. Porter, prepares the table then leaves, to be followed onstage by Ms. Porter as the diner. She looks at first like a beautiful, solitary young woman Jacques Tati might spot across the room in a seaside cafe. Her diner is pure Beatrice Lillie by the end, tipsy on pink wine but still tilting at the world. It is deft physical comedy of a high order, as poignant as it is funny.”
- “While Ms. Porter refers to her short, engaging works as “portables,” in other hands they could easily become trifles. But she doesn’t obscure her work with pretense; the first goal is to entertain, and in her best efforts she achieves even more.”
- "Porter's deliciously wild humor erupts through her studies like fire. Her subsequent gestural analysis is as rigorous as any anthropological kinesic study. Her work is smart, musical and skilled." - H. B. Kronen, The Morning Union, Springfield, MA
- "Droll and beautifully observed character studies." - Burt Supree, The Village Voice
- Wagner College
- Grand Valley College where she worked on gestural pieces including a piece in American Sign Language
- Columbia Teachers College where she taught Choreography and Laban Movement Analysis
- Hope College
- Manhattanville College
- Purchase College
- Connecticut College
- CASE Western Reserve University
Books by Claire Porter
- Dynamics in a Bag (self-published) – teaches about the range of dynamics in movement
- Namely, Muscles (self-published) – book of 37 poems on over 68 muscles
- Don’t Answer That (under construction) – bag of question cards to help choreographers create dance pieces
- Laban Bag – The Effort Qualities (under construction) – bag of theatre game cards for understanding Laban’s Effort Qualities
Nominations, awards and achievements
- Received numerous National Endowment for the Arts Choreography Fellowships
- Received numerous New Jersey State Council on the Arts Choreography Fellowships
- Awarded the College of Arts and Sciences’ Creative Achievement Award at Ohio State University
- Awarded the Mather Professorship at CASE Western Reserve University
- Nominated for the CalArts/Alpert Award
- Crowe. ""Information Courtesy of Claire Porter"" (Interview).
- Biography, Claire Porter / Portables. Accessed June 6, 2013.
- Fleming, John. "Saying it with flowers Series: DANCE PREVIEW", Tampa Bay Times, June 19, 1992. Accessed June 6, 2013. "'I'm bringing the costumes, and the props are going to be found there,' Porter says, speaking from her home in Teaneck, N.J."
- Anderson, Jack (1987-05-24). "Critics' Choice; Dance". The New York Times. pp. 2A. Retrieved 2009-04-16.
- Kourlas, Gia (2007-02-24). "Trifles That Aren't, but Feel a Lot Like Improv Sketches". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Anderson, Jack (1990-05-27). "Dance View; Appreciating the Choreographer's Palette". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Anderson, Jack (1983-07-21). "Dance: Festival Presents Young Choreographers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Dunning, Jennifer (1986-11-28). "DANCE: 'FRESH TRACKS' OF NEW CHOREOGRAPHERS". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Dunning, Jennifer (1991-12-09). "Dance in Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-23.