To make it in the professional dance world, it helps if training begins just after learning to walk. Kingwood High School Class of 2017 graduate Amber Robinson did just that, beginning dance training at the age of two.
All of her dedication and hard work have paid off, because after a stint last year at the Ballet Academy of Texas in Dallas, Robinson recently joined the Oklahoma City Ballet as a professional ballerina at the age of 18. She is the youngest member of the dance company.
Robinson said she always knew dancing was what she wanted to devote her life to. She began dancing at Kingwood Dance Theatre, Rowland Ballard’s school of ballet, and began attending summer intensives with different ballet companies around the United States and Canada at the age of 13, dancing on scholarships for five to 10 weeks straight each summer. She also performed locally in “The Nutcracker” and end-of-year recitals at Atascocita High School, as well as in performances at the Nathaniel Center and in the Ballet Gala at Hobby Center. Some of her major roles included “Clara” in “The Nutcracker” in 2012 at Atascocita High School, the “Snow Queen” and the “Arabian Princess” for Kingwood Dance Theatre in 2015 (two roles in the same show) and the “Queen of Hearts” and “Mad Hatter’ in Kingwood Dance Theatre’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” in 2015.
Dedication, talent takes young star far
“In 2015, I was cast as a soloist in Houston Ballet’s principal ballerina Melody Walsh’s choreography. When I was cast in this part, it was kind of a turn around for me as a ballerina. I was not used to being chosen to solo roles. When Mrs. Walsh chose me, she was very encouraging,” said Robinson.
In 2016, Robinson was offered a spot in the Ballet Academy of Texas school and the Ballet Ensemble of Texas company where, for three years running, she had attended the summer intensive dance program under scholarship. “My parents and I knew that [in order for] my dream to become a professional ballerina [to come true], I would need to receive more intense training,” said Robinson. She spent her senior year of high school living in Dallas on her own, training at the Ballet Academy. She managed to finish her senior year of high school requirements and trained full-time.
“I was always a more independent-type person, so taking the step of leaving home a year and a half early was definitely a smidge easier than expected. I lived in Coppell, which is a suburb of Dallas. It was hard at first, knowing that I had to go to the grocery store, make my own food, clean my own house, and do my own laundry without the help of anyone else. I also had to find time between my busy schedule with dance and finishing my senior year online. I am a very family-oriented person, so sometimes it was hard to come home to an empty house. It was all up to me and it was hard to adjust to, but that was quickly fixed when my parents arrived with my Christmas gift, my puppy, Tutter. I also met my lifelong and very supportive friends at the ballet studio. They all made it less lonely,” said Robinson.
Her dedication to training has included about 15 hours of dancing a week as a member of the Kingwood Dance Theatre. At the Ballet Academy of Texas, she spent an average of 30 hours training, and then an additional 10 hours of rehearsals for upcoming performances. “Needless to say, I went through a lot of pointe shoes!” said Robinson.
The ballerina has settled into Oklahoma City very well and loves the city. “I am a country girl at heart, so it was so nice to know that I would still be living in a place with lots of trees and open air. Oklahoma City itself is so beautiful and is filled with tons of little places to visit. I have always had a love for the state of Oklahoma. A large portion of my mom’s family lived in Lawton, Oklahoma, so we would come visit. I always loved how quiet and open it was and the people are so kind,” said Robinson.
Robinson is quick to convey her gratitude to all those who have helped her on the journey. “I am so thankful for my truly outstanding family. They have supported me from the time I was a baby dancing around the living room to now. I am truly blessed. They never doubted me and never let me doubt myself. Their support and love are what have gotten me to this point in my career. They inspire me every day to be better. I am also forever thankful for the amazing support and training that I received from my Ballet Academy directors, Lisa Slagle and Allan Kinzie. I would not be a professional if it was not for them. They pushed me to my boundaries emotionally and physically and that is what has made me the dancer I am today. They took me under their wing and helped me all the way through this process of becoming a professional ballerina.”
Kinzie also had kind words about Robinson. “Amber is extremely talented with strong technique and beautiful lines,” he said. “She was selected by Anna-Marie Holmes, who was the first North American dancer to ever perform with the Kirov Ballet, to perform the role of the ‘Lilac Fairy’ in ‘Aurora’s Wedding.’ Amber’s positive and exemplary attitude and dedication made her an integral member of the Ballet Ensemble and a leader amongst her peers. Amber will be sorely missed and we wish her all the best in her career.”
For aspiring young dancers who would love to follow in the footsteps of Robinson, she has a few words of advice. “Work extremely hard and keep your chin up. Even when people look at you and say you can’t, keep going. If dance is what you truly want to pursue, it will take you on a crazy ride and it will take a lot of sacrifices, but in the long run, it pays off. A scripture I lived by through the hard times of my training, when I felt like I couldn’t, when I felt like I wasn’t good enough, when people didn’t believe in me, was Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ This scripture is incredibly true. Sometimes it may be hard to believe or understand but it is always true,” said Robinson.
As for the future, Robinson plans to keep dancing for as long as her body allows and then to pursue a degree in speech pathology down the road. “I have always had such a passion for people with special needs.” she said. “They teach us so much about life, love and acceptance. I would love to work with young children who have been recently diagnosed with special needs. When my mother first got the news that my brother had special needs, a lot of people and doctors began to tell her how much he will ‘never be able to do.’ She decided that she was going to help him defeat the odds in any way he could and he has in several ways. She inspired me to be the person who looks at the parents of a child who needs help and be the one who says ‘they can!’”
Upcoming performances for Robinson include dancing in the Oklahoma City Ballet’s productions of “Swan Lake,” “Rodeo,” “Firebird,” “The Nutcracker,” and Robert Mills’ production of “The Little Mermaid.”
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