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Dancer VIP: Judith Jamison – Alvin Ailey former Artistic Director

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The Truth About Alisan Porter

Submitted by on 5 Dec 2008 – 1:40 PM Comments

At first glance you may not think you know Alisan Porter. In fact you probably do. So let’s play Jeopardy.

Question: First known as Curly Sue, she has transeed the child star stigma to become a well-rounded woman establishing herself as a theatrical performer, dancer, and musician. Answer: Who is Alisan Porter?

Column written by Alisan Porter for Movmnt Magazine – First published in December 2008

Growing up in three places can sometimes be too much for a kid. For me it was a blessing. Each place had a profound influence on my artistic development and shaped me into the artist I am today. In my hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts I learned to dance and had my earliest experiences in “the Studio.” In Los Angeles, I became an actress and worked in TV and Film. In Connecticut, I developed my knowledge of music, songwriting, and love of the theater. Each experience helped me get one step closer to answering the question, “Who is Alisan Porter?”

At age five, I was the youngest person to appear on Star Search and was a five time Junior Vocalist Champion. The experience catapulted me into a career in film and television. Over the next ten years, I worked for some of the biggest directors and brightest stars in Hollywood. My “claim to fame” happened when I was cast in the John Hughes film Curly Sue, at the age of ten. As a child, I felt I was doing exactly what I was meant to do; I could not have imagined doing anything else. But, as the buzz from Curly Sue wore off, so did my desire to do film. After years of working as a child, I decided it was time for a break, so my family and I moved to Connecticut to try suburban life.

Luckily, my high school had an amazing theater program. I remember transforming: from a little scared freshman who people only knew as “the ‘Curly Sue’ girl,” to a confident theatrical performer, walking the stage as “Anita” in West Side Story. The role made me feel empowered, and I gained respect from my peers. It was then that I knew that I was still a performer. I rediscovered my passion, but instead of wanting to perform for the camera, I desired to be in front of a live audience. This desire, along with my love of dance led me to be an avid competition kid—I thrived, and loved my summers in NYC or Orlando at Dance Masters of America (DMA), or Showbiz Nationals. I will never forget those years of my life where I found my best friends and created some of my fondest memories. I can’t even begin to explain the treasures I hold from those memories.

After high school, my life was filled with a whirlwind of experiences. My family moved back to LA, and I stayed on the East Coast and performed in Footloose on Broadway. I then moved to Malibu to chase a surfer dude, taught dance at a wonderful studio, started a band, played Miriam in The Ten Commandments at the Kodak Theater, recorded my first record, spent four years playing music in Los Angeles, and did a plethora of musicals and random shows. Then, in 2006, I moved back to New York because I was cast in the revival of A Chorus Line on Broadway, to play the same role that my mother had 30 years before. I finished A Chorus Line a year and a half later, spent four months in the city losing my mind, and then finally came back to California.

Here I sit in my apartment in the San Fernando Valley, twenty six years old, semi-accomplished, wanting so much more, and yet thrilled with what I have already accomplished. I look at my past, and sometimes feel like that child is not me. It feels as if I am a mother watching my child grow up. Now, I look in the mirror and I see an average woman who likes to cook, who lives to dance, and who loves her sisters and dog more than anything else. I see someone who sometimes would just rather sit at home and watch Lost than perform for a crowd of people. But then I remember—deep within me there is a burning desire to reach beyond that third balcony to God, to the top of the world, and just bare my soul. I know I cannot live without that feeling.

I often reflect about who exactly I am. It is sometimes hard for other people to see me as anything but Curly Sue. I ask myself if they know I’m a dancer. A choreographer. A teacher. Do they know I write my own music and play with my own band? Do they know I have struggled with addiction and am now proudly a sober woman? Yes, even I didn’t escape the child star curse! To me, all these things make up who I truly am. I know that all the things that I have been through, all the ups and downs, could never stop me from moving forward as an artist. The music I write reflects who I am, who I have been, and who I want to be. The choreography I create stems from human experience, love, and passion for life. To me, the most important way to go through life is to stay open, honest, and willing to change.

When I feel connected with the Universe and free myself from my worries, I thrive and have the ability to achieve anything I set my mind to. Life constantly keeps me on my toes, never calling on the phone to let me know it’s coming. It just shows up. It can be so hard to stay in the moment, not allowing my feet to move ahead of my brain, or vice versa. How do I stay present and connected? Simple. When I am on stage performing, I am fully engaged in the present moment, the world could fall down around me and I wouldn’t miss a beat. I try to live my life this way—every moment counts and everything that we live can be turned into art, if we have the audacity to try to improve the world and make it a better place to live and to create. A.P.


  1. [...] a recent essay for Movmnt magazine, Porter talked about dealing with her own former-child-star [...]