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Shopping has the ability to bring out a person’s more, ahem, competitive side. And for Celia Rowlson-Hall and Emma Portner—who both happen to have size 7.5 feet—the shoe department of Saks Fifth Avenue was the perfect setting for a playful dance battle that pivots to a duet. (A shoe-et?)
Vogue tasked the two dancer-choreographers to create a routine that would show off some of the best spring styles available at Saks. The pair say they’ve been longtime admirers of each other’s work and jumped at the chance to collaborate for the first time.
Rowlson-Hall has choreographed for film and television (including for Girls) and on VMA-award winning videos for artists like MGMT, Alicia Keys, and Sleigh Bells. Portner is the founder of the Emma Portner and Artists dance company and recently choreographed the West End musical Bat Out of Hell. She has trained with the National Ballet of Canada and the Dorrance Dance company and has also notably worked with musicians Justin Bieber, Maggie Rogers, and Blood Orange.
Rowlson-Hall said the big challenge she and Portner faced when prepping the dance piece was the mechanics of the star product. “We’re both contemporary dancers,” she says. “So, we’re used to dancing with bare feet and rolling around on the ground and being very serious. The idea of getting in high heels . . . we were like, ‘How do we dance in high heels?’”
Portner says she also enjoyed the math problem of casting the right shoes for the right moments in the piece. “We had to figure out things like, can I jump on a table in these shoes? It was sort of a limitations game.” The end result? A fun tribute to the best of spring shoes at Saks (which you can shop, below) that more than achieves what Rowlson-Hall calls the goal of every piece she choreographs: creating an upbeat, accessible finished product. “I like movement to feel very relatable,” she says. “I want you to feel like you can get up and do those moves as well. The best word to describe my work is ‘joyful.’”