Amber Ray on being a “Whole Dancer”
When Jess asked me to write a feature for the Whole Dancer, I was flattered but also, to be honest, hesitant to accept. I thought to myself, “Am I enough of a ‘whole dancer’ to give advice or be an example to others?”
After contemplating, however, I realized that these doubts I was experiencing made it all the more important to share my story. Ballet dancers tend to be perfectionists, and I know that I am not the perfect whole dancer.
I believe that becoming a whole dancer will be a lifelong journey for me. I won’t have everything perfectly figured out all the time, and I am learning to accept that as a normal part of life.
A little about me… my name is Amber Ray, I am eighteen years old, and I am about to begin my career as a professional ballet dancer. I started my formal training at age 12 at the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet in Los Angeles, California.
At age 15, I received a full scholarship through the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix to train at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany.
After two years in the “Akademie,” I graduated from the John Cranko Schule last month and will be joining the affiliated company, Stuttgart Ballet, as an apprentice in September.
I am so grateful that I get to do what I love every day; few people can truly say that their passion and their career are one and the same. Even now, it feels surreal to me that my dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer is coming true!
I had the opportunity to work with some very inspirational dancers and teachers recently, and they reminded me that each day you get to dance is a gift. Sometimes, of course, this is harder for me to remember, especially when I am feeling tired and overworked.
During these difficult times, I try to focus on the positive, as complaining and feeling sorry for myself only makes the situation seem worse than it is.
I am still figuring out how to fuel my body in the best way possible. I think it is a very individual thing- what works for one person might not work for another.
I almost always start my dancing days with a bowl of oatmeal. I love to eat something warm in the morning, and the oats give me sustained energy.
I am also working on coming up with a cross-training routine. In school, my schedule was varied daily so it was difficult to establish a routine. In the company next year, I will have more regular working hours, so I hope to come up with a routine to strengthen my body, improve my dancing, and avoid injury.
You’ve probably heard this so many times before, but as a dancer, you really have to grow up quickly. Moving abroad and learning to live away from my family definitely wasn’t easy, but I have learned so much along the way.
It has been an invaluable experience for me to be immersed in a foreign country with a completely different language and culture. It honestly doesn’t get any easier to say goodbye to my family each time I leave home, but as soon as I get back into my routine of dancing, any feelings of sadness I have usually subside. When I am feeling homesick, it really helps for me to call and FaceTime my family!
Right now, my main focus is transitioning from being a student to a professional. I can’t wait to learn new repertoire and perform much more frequently.
In the future, I would love to rise through the ranks and become a principal dancer. One of my dream roles is Juliet in Romeo and Juliet- I love the dramatic aspects of this ballet!
Outside of ballet, I love to read and travel. Living in Europe, I have the possibility to hop on a train or plane and be in another country in a matter of hours! In the future, I would like to pursue a college degree.
I have always enjoyed academics, attending public school until the end of freshman year and then finishing my last three years of high school through online courses. I know that I can’t dance forever, so I want to have options for the future.
The most important piece of advice I can give is to never lose your passion and focus. You can’t wait for others to push you to work hard- you have to push yourself.
A dancer’s life is difficult, but if you truly love the art form, it is all worth it. I think this quote by Confucius sums it up… “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 🙂