Amanda Clark was born and raised in Fairfax. Though her introduction to ballet began at a local studio, her talent and passion has taken her to the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York City and beyond.
With the ongoing support of her family, Clark looks forward to beginning her professional career in dance with Pacific Northwest Ballet.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue ballet seriously as a possible career?
I took dance classes at a studio five minutes away from my home when until I was 12. A ballet teacher, Shirley Bennett, came to my studio and suggested that I take a summer course at the Washington School of Ballet in D.C. where she also taught. I went for the summer and they accepted me into their winter program. That was my first real exposure to professional ballet. Before that, I had never considered ballet as a career. When I was 15, I auditioned and was accepted to the School of American Ballet in New York City to really focus on training for a career in ballet.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What is the best way for you to de-stress?
I still enjoy reading. Between dance and college classes, I don’t have another much time for a hobby. I mostly like to spend time with my friends and unwind. I also like to cook and go out to eat.
How has your experience performing in "The Nutcracker" in 2002 influenced and grown you to be the dancer you are today?
Most young dancers get the opportunity to perform in Nutcrackers all around the country. It is a good opportunity for dancers to get used to and feel more comfortable on stage. I’ve performed in both student and professional company Nutcrackers, which has helped me gain confidence and experience on stage.
Describe your experiences at the School of American Ballet.
I left home when I turned 15 to study at the School of American Ballet in NYC. This training is what allowed me to make the transition from student to professional. In this school, you have ballet classes six days a week. Attending the Professional Children’s School for high school allowed me to work my schoolwork around my ballet schedule so that I could train intensively and not just attend classes during evening hours. I had many options and opportunities when I decided to leave SAB after high school graduation.
Are you involved in any performances currently?
I am currently on summer vacation after finishing a year in the Professional Division at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, performing with both the school and the company. Starting in September I will be an apprentice with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Wash.
What is your favorite part about being a ballet dancer?
I am just so lucky and happy to take what I enjoy and am passionate about and turn it into a career. I also take classes part-time with Seattle University thanks to Pacific Northwest Ballet Second Stage Program. The way I see it, I have the best of both worlds.
What are some challenging aspects?
One of the more obvious challenges is that it is a very physical career. You need your body to be healthy and in good shape. Avoiding injuries and taking care of them when you are injured are essential. It can also be a very competitive. It’s important to have balance from the studio and the stage in your life, such as a supportive family and friends, which I have been amazingly lucky to have.
How accurately does the movie "Center Stage" depict the reality of being a ballet dancer?
The movie was based on the School of American Ballet and filmed in Lincoln Center, where I lived and trained for three years. The film does a decent job of showing what ballet is like besides a bit of over-dramatic depictions of stereotypes.
What is some advice you would give to aspiring dancers?
Remember why you love dancing when things get hard. Pursue all options. One great thing about ballet and dance, in general, is that there is a place for everyone. You just have to find your niche.
What is your favorite childhood memory growing up in the Burke area?
I lived near Lake Royal. The house I lived in originally was on the backside of the soccer fields. I grew up in that park. I spent time on the playground, biking around the lake, playing soccer, and my favorite — feeding bread to the birds. I also was on the jump rope team at Laurel Ridge Elementary School — the Ridge Ropers. That was a lot of fun.