Amy Brandt (Corps de ballet) hails from Libertyville, Illinois, and received her initial dance training at Dancenter North, the Ruth Page Foundation, and the Milwaukee Ballet School. She later joined the Milwaukee Ballet, where she danced featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Alonzo King, Mark Godden, and Anthony Tudor, among others. Her repertoire includes featured roles in Balanchine's Agon, La Valse, and Divertimento No. 15. Amy has also danced with Dances Patrelle and Ad Hoc Ballet, and is a contributing writer for Pointe magazine. Amy also serves as the Company's Shoe and Tights Coordinator. Amy joined The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2003.
What is your favorite role to dance and why?
My favorite roles have evolved over the years-I've always loved the mystery of the Three Fates in Balanchine's La Valse, and his jazzier ballets like Rubies and Who Cares. And Diamonds is an absolute dream-you just can't beat the feeling during its climactic finale: Tchaikovsky's swelling music, glittering chandeliers, a stage full of beautiful tutus. I don't think I've ever felt so exhilarated onstage in my life.
On a completely different note, I've danced the first pas de trois in Agon for several years, and it's a role I have grown quite attached to. There's something very special about dancing the Gaillard-I feel a sense of harmony when I look across the stage at my partner, no matter how tired I am. It's as if we're sisters, and I like that we can have a little fun onstage. The coda is the best part, though-the music is ridiculously difficult and we're all exhausted, but that's when you have to turn everything up a notch and really push. When the coda goes well, the best word I can find to describe the feeling is victorious-which makes sense, since "agon" means "competition."
What do you like to do when you are not dancing?
I love to read, anything from fiction to historical nonfiction to the newspaper. I also love writing, and have been doing it professionally for several years. I have my own advice column in Pointe magazine, and write feature articles as well. I've also written for Dance, Dance Teacher, Dance Spirit and Dance Retailer News. I'm finishing up my BA in English Literature at Marymount Manhattan College, too-so it's pretty safe to say that I don't have a whole lot of spare time! But when I do, you can usually find me enjoying a good meal at my boyfriend's house-he's a chef.
How do you prepare yourself for the physical challenges of rehearsing, performing, touring?
Years of dancing professionally have taken a toll on my body, so before class I spend a lot of time trying to loosen up or strengthen my "problem areas," like my ankles and hips. I'm not naturally flexible, so after class I stretch my hamstrings and back for about 15 minutes. When the day is done, I massage and ice any tight or swollen areas and take a bath with Epsom salts. On off days, I sometimes take a basic Vinyasa yoga class-nothing too advanced or taxing-where I can focus on opening up my spine and my joints (which sometimes feel a bit compressed after hours of jumping and pointework). I also try to schedule massage and acupuncture appointments when I can.
What is it like to work with Ms. Farrell? Any fun and memorable stories or anecdotes about working with her?
Working with Suzanne has taught me the power of inspiration and commitment. She has such a different approach to teaching and coaching. A lot of teachers and directors take very anatomical or scientific approaches to technique: "pull up this muscle here, activate this muscle there." But Suzanne prefers metaphors and imagery, which is very refreshing and mind-opening. She has a quiet, inspiring way of drawing out the best in us-she doesn't need to yell or make lofty speeches. She is so totally devoted to our art form that just being in the same room with her is enough to want to give 150 percent.
What music do you like to listen to when you warm-up?
I'm kind of a curmudgeon-I rarely listen to my iPod, and when I do it's almost always work-related. Frankly, I don't think listening to headphones for hours on end is good for the ears.
What do you think is the most common myth about being a ballerina? What do you wish people knew about what it's really like to be a ballerina?
That we don't eat! So many people think female dancers live off iceberg lettuce and Diet Coke. And yes, there are a few of those types out there. But not me - eating is one of the highlights of my day! Besides, I wouldn't have the energy to get through rehearsals without a good meal.
I also fear that recent depictions of dancers in popular culture make us look immature and mentally unstable. Sure, we begin our careers very young and are often under a lot of pressure, but for the most part dancers are highly intelligent and supportive of each other. We're a family here at TSFB.
Do you feel an affinity for any particular choreographer?
I definitely feel an affinity for Balanchine. His movement style feels very natural to me, and I love his musicality. His choreography always makes me feel like I have to stretch myself to the limit, and I appreciate a good challenge.
What is the biggest reward in your career?
I think the most rewarding experiences in my career have been performing for children. I was once part of an educational outreach team that would give demonstrations to second grade classrooms, and we were their first exposure to ballet for some of them. It was so rewarding to hear their raw reactions; they were blurting things out loud and clapping excitedly. I love bringing a little bit of joy to a child's day and teaching them something new.
What do you do as the company's shoe coordinator?
In addition to dancing with the company, I also manage the dancers' shoes. It's my job to keep files on everyone's shoe size and specifications, place orders, and make sure everything is delivered on time. I also have to do a lot of problem solving; last minute casting/costume changes and back-ordered shoes are common sources of stress!