Dancer Spotlight: Amy Marie Briones

Story by Susan Lee

Amy Marie Briones is truly a home-grown talent. Briones grew up in San Mateo, where she attended the Ayako School of Ballet until she joined Ballet San Jose in 2006. She was only sixteen at the time.

“I wanted to start ballet when I was two year old,” Briones says. “But my mother told me to go and play basketball with my brothers! I finally made it to my first class when I was four, and I wanted to go every day after that.”

Briones and her brothers were homeschooled, which she says was good for her soon-strenuous ballet schedule. It worked so well, in fact, that when Briones attended the prestigious USA International Dance Competition, Dennis Nahat, the former Artistic Director of Ballet San Jose, spotted her right away. “He asked me if I wanted a job,” she laughs. “I told him, ‘Well, I’m only sixteen, but yes!'”

Amy Marie Briones in Dwight Rhoden's Evermore. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

Amy Marie Briones in Dwight Rhoden’s Evermore. Photo by Alejandro Gomez.

Briones was so young that her mother had to sign the company contract for her. And because Briones didn’t have a driver’s license yet, her mother drove her back and forth for rehearsals and performances. For her first year as an apprentice, Briones was still doing all her schoolwork at night. “I was exhausted,” she says. “And so was my mother, because she was also working at the time, So, thanks, Mom and Dad!”

Briones, in fact, was the youngest member of the company. “I’m very outgoing, and because I’d been homeshooled alone with my brothers for so long, I was probably very loud once I had everyone in the company to talk to,” she admits. While some dancers want to be alone and quiet before a performance, Briones doesn’t mind being surrounded by other dancers before she goes on. “I might get a little nervous ten minutes or so before I perform, but when I get on stage, all my nervousness vanishes. I just enjoy the dancing.”

Amy Marie Briones in Don Quixote, staged by Wes Chapman after Petipa. Photo by Chris Hardy.

Amy Marie Briones in Don Quixote, staged by Wes Chapman after Petipa. Photo by Chris Hardy.

Her outgoing personality is also reflected in the roles she enjoys dancing the most. “I really like classical ballet, especially story ballets,” Briones says. “Some of my favorite roles were Kitri in Don Quixote, which I danced with Ballet San Jose in 2013, and Myrtha in Giselle. I’d love to dance Myrtha again – she’s such a strong character. I’m not a delicate dancer. I like jumps and turns. I’m actually a real powerhouse.”

Briones feels lucky to have stayer local her whole life. “A lot of young dancers go to different programs and get conflicting advice on their dancing. That can be so confusing. I think that a dancer has to figure out what kind of training suits them, and then stick with it.”

Her advice to a young dancer? “I’d say, honestly, that the ballet world is tough,” she confesses. “It’s hard to earn a living. But you have to do what you love. I love my job, and I love to be able to come in and dance every day. I met my husband, Soloist Akira Takahashi, at Ballet San Jose, and the company has become my family. If I’m in a bad mood, I just come in and start dancing, and nothing else matters after that.”

Briones was promoted to Soloist in 2012.

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Review Roundup: MasterPieces

As we closed the curtain on last weekend’s MasterPieces performance, the Ballet San Jose Company was glowing at their achievement, and the feeling was clearly contagious. Reflecting on their success, here are a few thoughts about the performance from our reviewers.

Carla Escoda of the Huffington Post commented on Ballet San Jose’s performance of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, stating,

The company threw themselves into that electrifying work with great style and daring – a triumph from start to finish.

Maykel Solas, Alexsandra Meijer, and Amy Marie Briones in Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room. Photo courtesy of Ballet San Jose.

Maykel Solas, Alexsandra Meijer, and Amy Marie Briones in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room. Photo courtesy of Ballet San Jose.

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How DO we make all that fog?

It's so foggy!

Ballet San Jose’s Production Stage Manager Les Reinhardt shared this fun comic from Q2Q Comics yesterday in anticipation of our MasterPieces performance. One of the works on the program, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, features heavy “fog” on stage, actually termed haze and smoke. Here’s some fun facts about how we get all of that smoke on stage! Continue reading

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Guest Stager: Stacy Caddell

After an acclaimed Nutcracker, our dancers are back in the studios rehearsing for our first program of 2015, MasterPieces. This week we are joined by Stacy Caddell, who is working with our dancers to stage George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations along with Sandra Jennings, also back in the studios since December. The ballet along with the company premiere of Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free and the return of Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room make up the MasterPieces program, which will be performed on February 20-22 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. These three works truly live up to the title of MasterPieces, and we are thrilled to be presenting this exquisite and diverse program. Keep reading to learn more about Stacy Caddell. For tickets to see MasterPieces, visit the Ballet San Jose website. Tickets start at only $25!

Stacy CaddellStacy Caddell

Stacy Caddell was born in Norfolk, Virginia where she began her dance training at the age of five. She attended the School of American Ballet and joined New York City Ballet at the invitation of George Balanchine in 1980. In 1991, Caddell joined Twyla Tharp’s company. She later toured with Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the full evening production of Cutting Up. After retiring from the stage, Caddell assisted Tharp at American Ballet Theatre on Known by Heart and at New York City Ballet on Beethoven’s Seventh. From 2002-2005, she served as Dance Supervisor for Tharp’s Tony Award winning Broadway show Movin’ Out. Caddell’s choreographic credits include the HBO series The Sopranos, the opera Aida for the Todi Festival in Virginia, and a ballet, our special waltz, for Ballet Academy East where she is a permanent guest faculty member. Caddell is currently a repetiteur and travels internationally to stage the works of Twyla Tharp and George Balanchine for Twyla Tharp and the George Balanchine Trust respectively.

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Dancer Spotlight: Ommi Pipit-Suksun

Story by Susan Lee

After living and working in three different countries, principal dancer Ommi Pipit-Suksun has finally found a home at Ballet San Jose.

Pipit-Suksun grew up in Thailand, where ballet was not very popular.  “There’s no professional ballet company in the country,” Pipit-Suksun says.  “And there weren’t even any dancers in my family.”

Ommi Pipit-Suksun

Ballet San Jose Principal Dancer Ommi Pipit-Suksun and Soloist Rudy Candia. Photo by Robert Reed.

So how did she wind up choosing ballet? Continue reading

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Guest Stager: Sandra Jennings

We’re in the middle of Nutcracker season, but we’re already thinking ahead to the New Year! This week, we were joined in the studios by Guest Stager Sandra Jennings, also ballet-mistress and coach at Mariinsky Theatre. Sandra is working with the Company to stage George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations for Ballet San Jose’s MasterPieces program. MasterPieces will be performed at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts February 20-22, 2015.

Sandra Jennings

Sandra Jennings, courtesy of Mariinsky Theatre

 

Sandra Jennings

Sandra Jennings was born in Boston and began her dance training at an early age with June Paxman of the Washington Ballet and later with E. Virginia Williams at Boston Ballet. Later Sandra trained with teachers such as Harriet Hoctor, Shanna Bereska and Margaret Gill. Continue reading

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In the Studio: Amy Seiwert

Here to choreograph a new work for Ballet San Jose’s Bodies of Technology program, Amy Seiwert is in the studio and setting her ballet on our Company of dancers. The work will combine the world-renowned innovations and inventions of Silicon Valley with the artistry of groundbreaking dance and choreography, and will premiere at Bodies of Technology at the California Theatre on March 27-29, 2015. Tickets are on sale now at balletSJ.org.

Read more about Amy Seiwert below!

Amy Seiwert

Amy Seiwert, photo courtesy of Amy Seiwert’s Imagery

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Guest Stager: Shelley Washington

Joining us this week is Shelley Washington, here to stage In the Upper Room for Ballet San Jose’s MasterPieces program. Performed last season, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room enjoyed standing ovations and glowing critical acclaim. Here’s what Rita Felciano of the San Jose Mercury News had to say of the performance:

In the Upper Room in an applause machine. One moment you have four women stalking and whirling in toe shoes, the next a leisurely group jogs backwards in slippers. The choreography’s demands on speed and precision partnering kept dancers on their toes and audiences at the edge of their seats. It was quite a ride.

We are again looking forward to seeing this masterpiece performed for the 2014/2015 Season and are so lucky to have the talented Ms. Washington here to set the stage. Read below to learn more about Washington’s background and many achievements, and don’t miss Ballet San Jose’s performance of In the Upper Room, on stage at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts February 20-22, 2015.

 

Shelley Washington

Shelley Washington

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Guest Stager: Philip Neal

Today Ballet San Jose is pleased to have Philip Neal in the studio working to stage Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free for our MasterPieces program, which will be performed at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on February 20-22, 2015. Neal will work with the Company through October 15, and we are very excited to have him in the building. Read Neal’s biography below to learn more about this talented artist.

Philip Neal

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Dancer Spotlight: Nathan Chaney

Ballet San Jose sits down with our newest company member, principal dancer Nathan Chaney. This season is Nathan’s first with Ballet San Jose. In this interview, Nathan speaks about his dance background, what inspires him, his advice for aspiring professionals, and his views about dancing with Ballet San Jose.

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose's newest Principal Dancer. See him perform May 9-11 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre

Nathan Chaney is Ballet San Jose’s newest Principal Dancer. See him perform next May 9-11, 2014 in Masterworks of Movement and Theatre.

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