Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Amanda Jean
Current Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Amanda, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
As most moms do, my mom put me into dance class at a pretty young age and I just never stopped dancing. As a kid, I was always listening to Broadway show tunes, and my sister and I used to practice putting shows together all day to perform for our parents that night. My sister, little brother, and I also participated in the children’s choir at Church where we would put on a couple of little shows a year. We all were also involved in children’s theater growing up. The performing arts has just always been our thing. It has always been the thing that I wanted to do.
During my freshman year in high school, I had a project in one class where we talked about our future and I said that one of my first jobs was going to be performing at Disneyland. As a child growing up in Southern California, getting to go to Disneyland with my family was one of our favorite things to do. As I got older, I would watch the performers during the parades and shows and couldn’t help but think, “That is going to be me someday.”
Shortly after graduating high school, that dream became a reality. Also after graduating, I started working at my high school as the assistant to musical theater, assisting during class time, and helping to choreograph for the main stage shows. I became way more involved in community theater and just tried to do as many shows as I could. I just love being on stage!
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
Usually, I am as busy as a bee. My life revolves around motherhood, working at Dance Threadz, a small business dancewear store, assisting the musical theatre program at HBHS's Academy for the Performing Arts, performing in shows at the Rose Center Theater, as well as dancing my way down Main Street at Disneyland.
Currently, due to the pandemic, I have become a stay at home mom and although it, of course, has had its challenges, it truly has been a blessing to be able to get this much time with my little one. I’ve gotten to see him grow, and learn, and change so much in the last few months and it has really given me a new perspective on life.
The road of the artist is a sometimes long and bumpy road. What are some struggles you've faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges is my body image and type. I do not have your "typical" dancer body. I have always been large chested and it has created many challenges in my professional life. I've been told countless times that "it's not my dancing, it's not your performance, you just don't have the right look," and it’s cost me roles, work, and shows. It has affected my mental health and is still something I struggle with today but, I am hopeful that others like me can help challenge the industry to be more inclusive.
Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?
I want to tell my younger self to Take. The. Risks. I will admit that I believe I missed out on some opportunities because I was too scared. Too scared of change. Too scared to look dumb. Too scared of what other people think. Too afraid to make a mistake. I don’t regret not taking those opportunities because all my decisions have led me to where I am today, but I can’t help but think what else could I have accomplished if I would have just taken the risk, gone to that audition, or sang that other song.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
Funny enough it has to do with making mistakes. At a dance intensive a long time ago, one of my dance teachers told us a story of someone he used to take class with. He said she would be at the barre warming up and when they would get to balance in passé, she would be falling all over the place, never completely balancing. Then when she would get to the center floor work, her pirouettes would be flawless. He just had to ask her why at the barre was she always falling, but during center work she would every step perfectly. Her response was, “I have to learn where I’m off balance in order to learn where my center is." In a nutshell, she had to make mistakes to succeed. I applied that advice to my dancing very quickly. It took me a little longer to apply that to my real life, but I truly think it’s great advice for anyone in any field.
What inspires you? Can you tell us about something that maybe inspired you to pursue a life in the arts?
Honestly, just watching live theater inspires me. I get inspired seeing a tour of a Broadway show. I get inspired seeing my high school students nailing the choreography we've been working on for weeks. I get inspired by watching my friends belt that high note.
A particular life event that really stands out is from working at Disneyland. I got the wonderful opportunity to perform in Fanstasmic! from 2013 to 2017, which had always been a huge dream of mine. Well, one night I was warming up on one of the barges, the show partially takes place on water and all of my tracks meant I was dancing on either a moving barge or a boat, and since this show takes place on Tom Sawyer’s Island there is no “off stage.” so just before the show starts, we can see some guests and they can see us. This one night, right before the music starts, a guest screams “I want to be you someday” and I just started crying. I used to be that guest. I used to be on the other side of the river watching these performers dance their hearts out and now I am a part of it. It really made me feel like I’m not just living my dream but inspiring others to live out theirs.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
The proudest moment of my career so far is becoming a mom. My son has already changed me more than he knows. He makes me want to make better choices for myself, and just to be an example for him. I want to show him hard work pays off. I want to show him you can follow your dreams. I want to be a mom he can be proud of.
The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts or artists play in today's society?
I believe the arts play a huge role in society today as a form of escape from the real world. I know for me, when I'm on stage, I forget about everything else I have going on in real life. In that moment, it is just me, the stage- or parade route- and the story we are creating to help the audience forget about the outside world.
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
My hope for the future of the arts industry is that we can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. I think this time without theater and performing has really put into perspective for a lot of people, I know especially for me, what the arts and theater mean to them, whether they are a performer or a guest.
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