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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.

AMBER RAY

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!

Stuttgart Ballet

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.

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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!

Amber Ray in Performance

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.

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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.” 🙂

Amber Ray on Dancing Abroad and Staying “Whole”

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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