Education & Community Engagement is Giving Kids a Chance To Dance

A Conversation With Michael Amoky – Houston Ballet Academy, Level 5

Michael Amoky came to Houston Ballet Academy through Education and Community Engagement’s Chance to Dance program. He received his scholarship in the spring of 2012 and enrolled in the Academy that fall. Now at age 13, he is the first student to enter the Academy through Chance to Dance to participate in the 6-week Summer Intensive Program. We caught up with him recently to talk about his experiences.

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Michael Amoky (front) with fellow Houston Ballet Academy students (2016). Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Tell me about your first time at Houston Ballet.
I was in second grade at Morales Elementary. They would call kids to the cafeteria; we’d take the bus, have class with Ms. Lauren (Lauren Anderson), get homework, and go back to school.

When I found out I got the scholarship, it was in the morning at school. They had put the letter in my locker. I waited to open it until I got home. I opened it with my mom, and she told me I got a scholarship. I was excited! I was kind of nervous about the pressure I would have at school. For some people, when you tell them you do ballet, they say that it’s just for girls, not boys. But really it’s for both.

What was your first experience like in the Academy?
When I was younger, I thought ballet was only for girls. As I started going through the levels, I met more boys and learned about pas de deux class, and that you need boys to do ballet. I got more and more comfortable in the first year.

Have you performed with the company?
My first performance experience was The Nutcracker in my first year here. When we first started rehearsing, I was not good at the acting at all. During our first company rehearsal, I was so nervous I almost cried. As I kept doing it, I got more comfortable with the company members and performing in front of lots of people.
Since then I’ve been in The Nutcracker every year, and also Giselle, Manon, Romeo & Juliet, and La Bayadere.

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Michael Amoky (left) on stage in Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ (2015). Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

This was your first 6 week Summer Intensive. How’s did going?
It’s very tiring. The first day I thought it would be easy – just coming to class like any other day. But I got super tired. I went home and went straight to sleep. It’s so much harder than year round program, especially Claudio’s (Claudio Muñoz) class, but you get used to it. This was my first time doing partnering. I was nervous about that. But that’s gotten better because as you go, you realize the girls are there to dance not judge you. They are very professional. It surprised me that partnering is so hard. Trying to find the girl’s balance and not let them fall. Pirouettes are super hard for me – spinning them is easy, but trying to stop them is hard because they have so much momentum. It surprised me how light the girls are.

What’s something you’ve learned this summer that you’ll take with you into next year?
When I first came in, I was sure I could do everything. This summer I realized I need to pay attention so I don’t hurt myself and I can get better. Claudio has been really pushing me to stay focused. I realize now that if I don’t, it just won’t work.
Ballet at first to me wasn’t that hard, but as you start doing more stuff and meeting new teachers, you realize each teacher has a different way of teaching. Each class is different. We’ve almost never had just boys class in technique. It’s a habit to do the girls arms. Claudio told us this summer that we can’t just follow the girls – it’s so different what boys have to do, especially with our arms.

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Michael Amoky in class at Houston Ballet’s 2017 Summer Intensive Program. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Has being a part of the Summer Intensive changed how you feel about ballet?
Being a part of the summer intensive has reinforced how I feel about ballet. I want to become a professional dancer. But I know it’s going to take a lot of work. I have a lot to learn. I’m going to take my focus into next year. Stay on top of what I have to do in class so that I can improve a lot and at a faster pace than I have been doing. I’ll be in Level 6 next year. After that, I want to do the full-time, Professional Program.

What else do you do besides ballet?
I’ll be in 8th grade at Southmore Intermediate next year. I can’t do any outside activities because I’m at ballet so much. So basically my day is: go to school, my mom picks me up, I get here and take classes. Sometimes I don’t get finished until 8:00 p.m. Sometimes my mom has to stop her job, pick me up to go home, and she goes back to work. My mom has sacrificed a lot for me so that I can follow my dreams.

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