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!'”
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.”
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.