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For SCC student and Ballet Arizona dancer Amanda Edelmann, a life in balance

Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011

Updated: Friday, September 23, 2011 17:09

Amanda Edelmann Ballet Arizona 3

Larry Stone of 12 North Photography •

Moving effortlessly across the stage en pointe, suspending themselves in the air like angels, they leap.

They are calling it the Fairytale Season. A year of princesses in tutus and happy endings. But one ballerina knows that fairytales don't happen overnight.

Amanda Edelmann, an apprentice with Ballet Arizona, is not your typical princess, nor is she your average ballerina.          

"My main focus is dancing right now," she said. "But you can't dance your whole life."

That's where school comes in. She is currently enrolled part-time at Scottsdale Community College and majoring in graphic design.

The 20-year-old works in the studio all day and then attends classes four nights a week.

"Usually by 10, I'm just ready for bed," she joked.

Despite the long hours, Edelmann considers herself lucky to have both school and work in her life. "I manage my time pretty well," she said, adding that homework typically is reserved for the weekends when she's not in the studio.

The only time school and ballet conflict, she admitted, is about a week before each performance. Rehearsals move to the theater and run into the night. She often gets behind in school during these times because she has to miss classes.

But Edelmann has a goal in mind, and she will not stop until she achieves it.

"Since I am only part-time, it will take me longer to get everything done and graduate, but I definitely want a four-year degree," she said, adding that she plans to transfer to Arizona State University next fall.

Edelmann considers the degree a fall back plan when she can no longer dance professionally.

Most ballet dancers have to start a new career in their thirties because the art form focuses on youth and vitality, according to Katrina Olson, the marketing and public relations manager for Ballet Arizona.

"Ballet dancers have such a developed expertise but it's only useful for a certain time," said Olson, who danced professionally for 15 years. Therefore, training, which typically takes between eight and 10 years to be professional, begins at an early age, she said.

At the School of Ballet Arizona, the professional track begins at age 4.

Edelmann's determination began in Houston, at the age of 3, when she began dancing. By the time she was 9-years-old, she began training specifically in ballet. Even as a child, Edelmann understood how demanding the art could be.

"I always had that dedication even when I was little," she said. "I loved going to class and I always asked my mom, ‘Please take me to ballet.'"

She began studying pointe – the classical ballet technique in which dancers are perched on tip-toes for extended periods of time – when she was 12, thanks to a "pushy" teacher, who she said later encouraged her to audition for the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C., a ballet boarding school.

She attended a summer workshop with Jessica Phillips, now her best friend, who also dances for Ballet Arizona. The two had known each other for years, having danced at the same studio. At the end of the program they were both asked to join Kirov for the academic year.

"I really had to think it over and decide if I wanted to go towards ballet or have a ‘normal' life of going to college and all that," she said. It was a decision that most dancers have to make at one point, Olson said. Those who want to become professional often spend at least some time away from home studying the art.

Ultimately, Edelmann decided she could not pass up the offer, but she admits that it was not easy. "My freshman year I was crying every night … I really missed my family," she said. "But I knew that it was the school that could get me where I wanted in this career."

Although she had thoughts of quitting along the way, she realized during the summer months, when they were off, that she missed it. She began to realize that if she missed ballet that much, she needed to push herself to stick with it.

After graduation, Edelmann traveled to California and New York to audition for other companies. One day, she got a call from Phillips who had just been asked to join Ballet Arizona. Phillips told her that the company had one spot open. Edelmann immediately visited, took classes with the company as a trial run and was then hired.

She considers herself fortunate that someone told her of the opportunity and gave her a chance to dance with Ballet Arizona.

"Dancing, you have to be in tune with each other and go off each other a lot, so we're like a family here," Edelmann said of the connection she has with the rest of the company.

Edelmann spent one year as a trainee with the company before being promoted to an apprentice. This is her second season as an apprentice.

Last season, Edelmann received her first solo dancing gig as the principal's vision in "Don Quixote" and later landed another part in Ib Andersen's ballet "Symphony Classique."

"I guess I had a pretty good year last year," she said, laughing.

The dancers with Ballet Arizona operate on a yearly contract, which Edelmann admits can be difficult, sometimes not knowing where she's going to be in a year. Edelmann hopes to remain with Ballet Arizona for at least five or six years.

"I don't want to dance until I'm 40," she said. "But I do want to have a career in it, and I definitely want to stay here for most of it."

She said it helps to have a strong support system from her family, Phillips and past teachers.

"Even though this is our job, it's still very emotionally draining," she said. "Its good to have that support when you get home and you are able to talk to your parents or your family just to make you feel better."

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