BWW Interviews: Amy Fote talks her Ballet Career, Houston Ballet, What's Next & Offers Advice
Me: Did you get to help cast the tribute show or was there any special input they came to you for since it is your tribute and your night?
Amy: You know, I know that Stanton [Welch] shows work, so I will get to dance with many of the partners I danced with throughout the years, and that is very special. So, it will be very bittersweet, and it's a time for an audience to—I don’t want to say “say goodbye,” but in a way that is what it is, as well as me saying goodbye and a way for my fellow dancers to say goodbye, as we share the stage for one of the last times together. That is something. I know that they put together a video and they asked for a lot of pictures from when I was growing up. That’s really special, and I think that people will feel like they know me a little better after having watched something like that. It kind of explains how I did get started with ballet, the schools that I had attended, performing arts high school through my upbringing and having been at Milwaukee Ballet and now Houston Ballet, and some of the in-betweens and highlights of my career.
Me: You got to dance the Sugar Plum Fairy one last time with Houston Ballet in THE NUTCRACKER. What was that performance like?
Amy: Oh goodness. Well, I have my final show on the 29th of December, so we’re still in the midst of those. Sugar Plum Fairy has been a role that has been special. Even though you think it will be easier year after year, there is just something about it. It’s just stamina. It’s the wearing a tutu where everything has to be pristine and precise. And there’s something that is just really rewarding about performing a ballet like that. I also love [THE] NUTCRACKER because it’s often someone’s first experience in the theatre, whether it be a child or sometimes often an adult. That’s a great introductory ballet. It’s very easy to follow. Stunning sets and costumes and music that we hear even in the malls and commercials. I mean, the Tchaikovsky score stands alone. It’s amazing. I think it's a really special ballet to perform. And, on top of that, I love that it's a festive time of year. It’s such a tradition. And just to be involved with the company and going through this final push together before everyone goes on a little break, I just think it’s beautiful timing. I started dancing in [THE] NUTCRACKER when I was eight years old as a Bon-Bon, and have been in it every year since. So, for me, its kind of tying that little bow and everything about it just feels right.
Me: You’re still young, so what is next for you?
Amy: Right! I mean there are a lot of things I want to explore, which lead me to this decision. I am interested in nutrition and fashion and design. I have thoughts of maybe doing a cookbook. You know, if I’m here in Houston, being involved in the Houston Ballet Organization. It’s very close to me heart. There were some opportunities that I know we have spoken about. And, I also have most recently thought about maybe becoming a part of a foundation here in Houston that gives away money to the arts. That might be a nice fit. But I do feel very close to Houston Ballet, and if I were to be in this area I could easily see myself doing some of that sort of work or still being involved in the studio, whether it would be maybe teaching or whatnot. Or, you know, in another part of the country. Ballet is something that I know. I know so well. I know it will always be a part of my life, but there are other things that I am wanting to explore as well. So, I’m going to give myself a little bit of time to see what speaks loudly to me and try to have a few things happen, and kind of spread my wings. [Laughs] I don’t have a definite answer. I wish. You know, and I’ll probably be taking some college classes as well. Maybe something even with communications. I kind of have a lot of interests, so just trying to narrow some things down, and I think once, you know, once dance is quiet for me—when I’m not in the studio—I’ll be able to explore some of these other worlds and hope to keep ballet close as well. Like I said, I love the Houston Ballet Foundation here, and I think it’s a great organization.
Me: Thinking back on your career with ballet. What has probably been the best moment for you?
Amy: Oh my goodness. Wow! You’re the first person to have asked me that! [Laughs] Gosh. [Pauses] That is really, really tricky. I mean, there are lots of things. A lot of special shows I remember and some performances that really stand out. And I even loved some of the times in the studio, where you feel like, you know, “today I have really done my job well.” Gosh. I think something that I really loved was performing MADAME BUTTERFLY. I don’t know, I think maybe it was just being a guest over with Royal New Zealand Ballet. Just that whole experience was definitely a highlight in my career. Not to dismiss, you know...[Pauses] I remember being promoted here, on stage. That was an amazing moment! And there are some ballets too that I have danced here, you know, they felt extra special that night. I’m really having a hard time saying what the moment was. Sorry, I’m not answering your question. [Laughs]
Me: You know, it’s okay to have more than one moment.
Amy: Yeah. Gosh. And I guess as well, going back, for some reason, you know, sometimes you want to bottle a feeling. That one for me would be after having done my run-through of ONEGIN, when I first joined the company, and hearing my fellow dancers be so appreciative of my work with their applause and with the things that they had said to me. It just really felt like a wonderful moment, and that was something in the studio shared with an intimate group. And sometimes that’s when it is most difficult to perform for people who know what you do so well. To perform for an audience, they know whether they like things or not. There’s a dancer’s dancer and there’s an audience’s dancer. And it’s very different, and you want to be able to go to both. You want your technique to be just right and then you want to be able to reach past and have your emotion and feeling be something that is felt as well. So, it is much more complex. As is now changing jobs. You know, like, once you retire from dance, it’s not just like changing jobs in the real world. It is very complex. So, I’m wondering how the transition will be. [Laughs]
Me: I can understand how that would be daunting and kind of scary.
Amy: Yeah. It’s both. It’s exciting. It’s also scary. There are a lot of unknowns, and there is something thrilling about that. I chose to retire, and it felt right. You know, I feel like I have given what I can to this art form. I really do feel fulfilled. Of course, there are times that I feel, “Oh, I’d really love to do this ballet again,” but it feels like it is time to move on. It was a tough choice to make. It really was because I still love, love, love what I do. I don’t know. Something about it settles.
Me: You probably get asked this question all the time, but what advice do you offer to young artists trying to break into the industry?
Amy: Okay. This is probably a favorite question because it is something that I discovered about my self not that long ago. And it goes like this: You cannot be anything you want to be, but you can be a whole lot more of who you are meant to be.
Now, for me, that means some people, of course, in this profession they’re going to have legs higher, they’re going to jump higher, they’re going to turn more, and if I am always striving to be that, I do push myself and continue to want to improve on all of those things, but when you find what your forte is, and what your special gift is—what your talent is—and if you can let that shine and really speak, that is going to set you apart. That is going to be what becomes part of your identity. You don’t need to compare yourself to others. Now, that happens. But everyone has a different gift. It would be so boring if we all had the same thing. So embrace what make you unique. And you just really need to push yourself every single day and sometimes, often through that, because it is so difficult, that is when the rewards become really great. When you believe in yourself, you’ll stand a little differently.
If you missed your chance to bid Amy Fote a fond farewell at November 30th’s JUBILEE OF DANCE, you can see her play the Sugar Plum Fairy one last time on December 29, 2012. For tickets and more information abut this performance lease visit http://houstonballet.org/ or call (713) 227 – 2787.
Headshot of Amy Fote by PatRick Dean. Publicity Stills by Amitava Sarkar. All images courtesy of Houston Ballet.
Headshot of Amy Fote. Photo: PatRick Dean.
Ballet: THE NUTCRACKER. Dancer(s): Amy Fote as Sugar Plum Fairy. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.
Dancer(s): Amy Fote and Artists of Houston Ballet. Photo: Amitava Sarkar.