About Emerson

Meet Emerson

Dance & Fitness Instructor

Emerson has over twenty years of experience in the performing arts and physical fitness with extensive training in classical ballet, contemporary, modern, tap, jazz, ballroom & Latin dance styles, and dramatic and comedic acting, along with multiple years of personal cross-training in various kinds of physical fitness genres such as Pilates, Gyrotonic®, Progressing Ballet Technique, strength training, and dance-based workout classes.

As a freelance dancer, instructor, choreographer, and fitness instructor, Emerson produces her own video training sessions and virtual lessons for dancers and dance enthusiasts alike to learn more about dance and participate in classes from home, as well as online fitness classes.  

Emerson is also a certified Progressing Ballet Technique instructor. This unique and innovative program utilizes specifically designed body-conditioning exercises that helps enhance classical ballet technique, muscle strength, and proprioception, as well as offers many other physical benefits for both dancers and non-dancers alike.

Training History

Emerson’s primary pre-professional training in the performing arts began with the Lexington Ballet School, the official school of the Kansas City Ballet, and the University of Missouri, Kansas City where she attended collegiate level ballet classes by invitation of Paula Weber. She furthered her dance and acting studies through intensive training with Indiana University, BalletMet, Alanzo King LINES Ballet, Manhattan Dance Project, Coterie Theatre, and several others, having been offered seven different scholarships over the years.

She has worked with many respected instructors and choreographers, including world-renowned dancer and choreographer Michael Vernon of the Royal Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet Academy graduate and company soloist Dmitri Suslov, founder of Manhattan Dance Project Bill Hotaling, Emmy-Award-winning choreographer Josh Bergasse, Tony-Award-winning Broadway choreographer Chet Walker, National Ballet of China soloist Jenny Chiang, Cirque du Soleil casting talent scout and former Dance Theatre of Harlem Ballet Mistress Charmaine Hunter, Lexington Ballet directors and former Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Luis and Nancy Dominguez, Ken Braso of Louisville Ballet, and Mona Störling-Enna of Störling Dance Theater.

Her dance training and performing career were also enhanced by taking numerous classes and workshops with a heavy emphasis in physical fitness and body conditioning taught by respected trainers such as Robyn Shifren (Progressing Ballet Technique Official Tutor of the USA), Juan Pablo Trujillo (certified Gyrotonic® instructor), Stefani Schrimpf (certified Pilates instructor), and Elizabeth Hartwell (certified advanced Franklin Method® Movement educator).

Professional Work

At age sixteen Emerson became one of Störling Dance Theater’s youngest company trainees, and while there she completed two years of the Störling Conservatory of Dance day training program (formerly known as the Artist Development Program) in which she took daily classes with the company and performed in their professional and accompanying school productions.

Her own work and experience as a full professional company member includes VidaDance and East Coast Ballet, as well as her own contemporary ballet company, Anazao Dance, which she began directing at age seventeen. 

At the age of nineteen, Emerson became the youngest company instructor for the Missouri Contemporary Ballet where she taught weekly ballet classes for the professional company members.

Other dance schools with which Emerson has been an instructor or a guest instructor include Elevate Art in Kansas City, East Coast Ballet School, Missouri Contemporary Ballet School, Columbia Performing Arts Centre, and Columbia Summer Ballet Intensive, among others.

EmersonMertens.com

Fibromyalgia and hEDS

In her early twenties, it was discovered that Emerson has a physical condition called hEDS (hypermobile type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) which had caused an unusual amount of pain and fatigue in her muscles and joints throughout her life. Several years later, she was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that affects the entire body – particularly the central nervous system – which developed into additional physical issues that can progress over time, including an even greater level of chronic widespread pain and fatigue than she already experiences with hEDS.

The discovery of these two conditions and the effect both have on her physical abilities and overall health eventually lead to her stepping away from full-time company work and performing on a regular basis, but she still continues to teach and choreograph both in person and through online media, as well as perform on occasion.

Performance Highlights

Emerson has performed in over forty shows and a multitude of individual pieces throughout her time in the arts, and her performing credits include soloist and lead roles in many productions over the years such as Clara in Minnesota Ballet’s The Nutcracker under the direction of Robert Gardner, Infinity Company’s Little Serenade Suite and the director’s original contemporary modern soloist piece “Way Over Yonder”, Molly Mouse and the Royal Princess of Norway in Cinderella, Sister Simplice and various other roles in a version of Victor Hugo’s Les Misarables entitled La Vie de Cosette produced by The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts, and the lead role of Swanhilda in an excerpt from Coppelia.

As an ensemble and corps de ballet dancer she has also performed in many notable productions such as The Moscow Ballet’s United States tour of The Nutcracker, Lexington Ballet’s The Tales of Beatrix Potter and Nutcracker productions, VidaDance’s Into the Night showcase, and Störling Dance Theater’s Butterfly, among multiple others.

Original Choreography

Emerson has created her own original choreography for various productions throughout the years, including Reflections In A Puddle Art Series, Störling Dance Theater’s “DANCE“ concert, charity events, church productions, and Project Dance.

While training with the Indiana University Intensive program, her Sherlock Holmes-inspired piece, Discombobulate, was the only student piece chosen by the Jacobs School of Music Chair of Ballet Michael Vernon to be presented at the intensive showcase that year, and her contemporary ballet piece Slow Me Down has been performed at several venues, including at the request of two separate producers for two different productions.

Along with choreographing individual pieces for various dance productions, Emerson has also been the sole choreographer for full musical productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan produced by Battle High’s Vocal Arts Department.   

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