By Amanda Clark, CTFD dancer-client and recipient of Caroline H. Newhouse and Sono Osato grant awards
My name is Amanda Clark and I am currently a dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington. My passion for dance began in a basement studio called Joyful Steps in Fairfax, Virginia. While I participated in all kinds of extracurricular activities from swimming to girl scouts, my body and soul was happiest when dancing to music. This passion was visible from a young age, and a local teacher who taught at the Washington School of Ballet, Shirley Bennett, encouraged my parents to enroll me in their pre-professional program. It was agreed that I could pursue my dream of becoming a ballerina so long as I continued to achieve academic excellence. In order to effectively juggle ballet and school, I would start my homework every night in the back of my father’s Buick century by flashlight, listening to NPR. It was in the car driving home from ballet with my father that my passion for International Studies took root. I eagerly anticipated learning and engaging with my dad in discussion about what was going on in the world, outside my ballet and suburban bubble.
I was far behind my classmates at the Washington Ballet, but progressed quickly and after two years left to study on scholarship with the School of American Ballet in New York City at age 15. At age 19, I joined the Pacific Northwest Ballet under the artistic direction of Peter Boal, and have been living my dream of being a professional ballerina. With Pacific Northwest Ballet, I have danced the works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kilyan, Alexi Ratmantsy, Crystal Pite, Val Caniparoli, among many others. I have been fortunate enough to dance the featured classical roles such as the Bluebird pau de deux in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty, as well as contemporary masterpieces such as Jiri Kilyan’s Petite Mort. However, dance has never been enough to stop my incessant curiosity about the world. Higher education has greatly enhanced my artistic expression and motivation for my professional ballet career. I truly believe that ballet has made me a better student, and that my education has made me a more inspired artist.
In order to obtain my undergraduate degree, I took classes before work, after work, online, and participated in independent studies. I received my Associates of the Arts degree from Seattle Central Community College in 2010. In 2010, I transferred to the University of Washington as an International Studies Major. Sadly, there was no way for me to take the necessary classes needed to graduate while dancing full-time with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I decided to transfer all my classes to Seattle University and utilize the classes which are brought to the ballet in the evenings through Pacific Northwest Ballet’s career transition program, Second Stage. In 2014, after seven years of juggling work and school, and constant transferring of credits, I graduated from Seattle University with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts.
However, I didn’t feel that my degree in Interdisciplinary Arts had provided me with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to transfer into a second career in the field of International Relations. Therefore, this fall I began a Master’s Program through Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. In March 2016, I will complete my M.S. in Global Studies and International Relations with a concentration in Conflict Resolution. This summer the Sono Osato Scholarship for Graduate Studies is supporting my studies in global inequality and research methods. This degree will afford me the opportunity to transfer into International Relations once I retire from dancing professionally.
I am extremely grateful for the Newhouse scholarship, the Sono Osato Scholarship, and Career Transition For Dancers for encouraging dancers to invest in their education. My identity as a dancer is inexorably tied with my identity as a student, and I hope to bring elements and lessons learned from both identities into my second career in International Relations. Thank you for CTFD for dancers helping to fund dancers futures in diverse career paths.