Sharon Van Etten’s new music video for “Porta” shows the singer doing a workout with her trainer, Stella Cook of Base Pilates in North Carolina. Before Van Etten’s quivering but powerful voice kicks in, the countdown beat begins with Cook reciting instructional moves: “over, right, swing.” The music video then shows the two women in the studio stretching, bending to the sides and raising their arms to the sky. Coupled with lyrics such as “I wanna be myself (stay out of my life) / Don’t let it find us,” the roughly four-minute video is shocking. After all, on paper, a workout might seem benign, it’s all about burning calories and “keeping it tight.” But Van Etten’s take on toning strips away the layers of simple perspiration and taps into the deeper connection of mind and body, taking the viewer on an emotional marathon.
The idea of filming himself mid-workout grew out of Van Etten’s experience during the pandemic. In September 2019, Van Etten had moved to Los Angeles after living in New York for 18 years. When the lockdowns started, she fell into an isolated bubble and hit an emotional low. “It wasn’t caring for me like everyone else and I missed my friends in the East,” says Van Etten. “I was homeschooling my child while we were learning about the bubble. I needed time for myself so I could center myself and be better as a partner, mother and friend.