This article is cross-posted at J Pointe – The Official Blog of The Joffrey Ballet.
Be on the lookout for a petite female with an infectious smile, dark amber hair, strong feet and a penchant for jumping and turning. Amber Neumann, at 19 and in her second season with The Joffrey Ballet, is also ambitious. “I want to do it all,” she says from an empty studio before company class. “I would love to dance (Jirí) Kylían and really classical stuff like Don Quixote. I want to dance barefoot. I want to dance in pointe shoes. Everything!”
Neumann began her training in Indiana with Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, now the Artistic Directors of Joffrey’s Academy of Dance. She followed them to Chicago and the rest, you could say, is history. Picked to partner now fellow Joffrey dancer John Mark Giragosian at the New York International Ballet Competition in 2009, Neumann stepped up and won the Silver Medal in the Women’s Division. Shortly after, Ashley Wheater offered her a contract with Joffrey. “I had gotten an offer from Miami City Ballet…but I love the Joffrey and Chicago,” she says. “I was so excited to come here, because it’s a really different company and the fact that it’s unranked has allowed me to do so many things I never would have done in my first year at any other company.” Some of those things include Autumn Fairy in Cinderella, a featured part in The Concert, Spanish solo in The Nutcracker, Tarantella (where she whipped off a perfect triple pirouette like it was nothing) and in this season’s Nutcracker she will dance the Sugar Plum Fairy. “This job was the best thing that ever happened,” says Neumann. “It’s amazing! I still can’t believe I’m here.”
In her spare time, she also does independent dance projects, like Danceworks Chicago’s Dance Chance with her sister Corey, a dancer and choreographer in her senior year at Western Michigan University. “I love working with my sister,” she says and gives Corey credit for starting her love of ballet. “She was in dance and I had to do everything she did, because she’s my big sister. After a while, I realized that it would be really cool if I could do this for a living.” Coming from an artistic family — Neumann’s parents are both musicians — didn’t hurt either. With Dad playing guitar and banjo, Mom on piano, Amber on drums and everyone singing, she likens them to the Von Trapp family. Other interests include fashion design. In fact, she designed and wore her own gown for Joffrey’s annual fundraiser Couture and Cocktails.
On a performance day, she has a specific routine, which starts with a trip to Dunkin Donuts to pick up a bacon, egg and cheese bagel and coffee (and sometimes some Munchkins for the dressing room!) At the theater and ready to go way too early, she usually ends up listening to music and waiting. Maybe she could use that time pursuing yet another passion: working on beating her own pirouette record. So far, it’s ten, flat and en pointe (and yes, she has witnesses). Does she get nervous? Sometimes. “When I’m dancing in a group, I think I get more nervous,” she says. “If I mess up, I mess myself up and it’s my own fault. I don’t want to mess other people up.” Look for Neumann this December in The Nutcracker as the maid, party scene parent, Columbine doll, snowflake, Spanish, flower in Waltz and Sugar Plum Fairy.
For Nutcracker ticket information: 800.982.2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.