A science whiz, a professional ballet dancer, a born storyteller, a basketball star, and four others talk about their lives and their hopes for the future
by Bridget Maiellaro
It hit her one day during dance class. Amid the falling pieces of ceiling and the occasional bat flying about an old studio room on the third floor of Southold Dance Theatre in South Bend, Indiana, Amber Neumann felt her calling. She had been taking lessons since she was four years old, commuting 30 minutes to the studio from her house in Niles, Michigan, in the family’s light blue minivan. But it wasn’t until that moment in 2005, shortly after Southold hired Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, principal dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet, that Neumann finally realized she wanted to dance professionally.
“It was a wake-up call for me. They had a whole new way of looking at things. It was a different way of training,” says Neumann, who this past January followed her teachers to Chicago and took classes during seasonal sessions at the Joffrey Ballet. “I realized that I really love this.”
This year alone, Neumann won the top award in the Youth America Grand Prix city regional competition—an honor that acknowledges a dancer for both classical and contemporary repertoires. And pairing with the Joffrey’s John Mark Giragosian in June, she went head to head against 23 other 17-to-24-year-old dancers from around the world in the tenth New York International Ballet Competition, earning the silver medal for the women’s division (no gold medal was presented this year).
In July, following her strong showing in New York, the Miami City Ballet invited her to audition for a core contract—and extended an offer just days after seeing her. The Joffrey’s artistic director, Ashley C. Wheater, countered with his own contract offer; Neumann accepted, making her the youngest member of the Joffrey. “I was very excited about joining the Miami City Ballet, but this just felt right,” says Neumann. She will make her debut in Lar Lubovitch’s Othello October 14th through 25th.
Still, Neumann doesn’t take anything for granted. “I think if there is nothing to work for, you should choose something else,” she says. “There is always more.”
Photograph by Ryan Robinson