We were lucky enough to meet Amber a few years back in New York City and have had our eye on her hard work, dedication, and natural talent ever since. She is a force to be reckoned with at the barre and as sweet and genuine as can be in person.
At only 14 (today is her 14th birthday!), she has accumulated more than 45k loyal followers on Instagram, won the Youth America Grand Prix Hope Award two times, and a World Ballet Competition silver medal - all while staying down to earth and, seemingly, a happy and healthy young lady!
We couldn't be more excited to share our interview with Amber on the PointePeople blog. Enjoy!
Amber Novella Skaggs
Photo Credit: Eva Nys Photography
How old were you when you started dancing?
I was 7 when I started dancing, but I did not start ballet until I was 9.
When did you know that you wanted to be a professional dancer?
I’m not sure if there was really a first time I knew. I just found myself loving what I was doing, working really hard and not ever wanting to quit.
What’s your favorite piece or variation you’ve ever performed?
I had an amazing opportunity to be featured in a special piece called “Central Park Tango” choreographed by Francisco Gella and performed by the Phoenix Ballet. I really loved this role because it was first time I ever felt like a teacher /choreographer truly believed in me and trusted me for a special role. It taught me how to be confident and to trust myself as a dancer.
With 35 hours a week training, how do you balance school work and friends?
It’s definitely not easy. My parents always remind me that school comes first. I try to make sure that I always get my school work done before I head to dance in the afternoon. I don’t get a lot of time with friends but luckily most of my friends dance with me so I get to see them at the studio.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not dancing?
Most of my time is consumed with dance so when I find myself with a little down time I like to snuggle up with a blanket and catch up with my favorite Netflix shows.
What’s your pre-performance go-to meal?
I really like Bounce Plant Based Energy Balls. I find that they give me just the right amount of energy I need to make through a performance. I try to eat a more balanced meal after the performance is over.
Do you still get nervous before performing? How do you combat those nerves if you do?
Yes, I will probably forever get nervous but without the nerves there would be no feeling of accomplishment. I do happen to have a little good luck charm that I bring with me to all of my competitions and performances. I like to think this helps me with my nerves.
Who’s one dancer that inspires you, or that you look up to?
As I get older I find myself getting inspiration from a wide variety of dancers. I’m inspired by not just they way they dance but how they got to where they are now. The journey of the dancer can be just as inspiring as the dancer themselves.
What’s an essential that you keep in your dance bag?
Aside from all the usual things that are in a dancers bag I think a couple essentials that I always have is ibuprofen and Tiger Balm.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you stick to?
I don’t really have any rituals but do always make sure my body is stretched and kept warm. I also always find my teacher and ask for any last minute corrections.
Do you have a dream company you’d love to be a part of?
I have a few that I’d love to be a part of but most importantly I want to find a company that fits me and the kind of dancer I aspire to be. I want to find a place that I feel wanted in return.
Photo Credit: Eva Nys Photography
Amber is wearing "Honey" Pointe Paint in this photo!
What was one of your biggest challenges you’ve ever faced as a dancer, and how do you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had as a dancer is the fact that I don’t come from a family that has a lot of money. I don’t always have the same opportunities available to me. I try hard to focus on the things that really matter most and I remind myself to be thankful for the things that I do have and the people that support me.
What’s one dancer stereotype that you wish you could break?
The biggest stereotype I know is that all ballerinas have eating disorders. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the pressure to be thin in this industry is a real thing but not everyone succumbs to the pressure. Most ballerinas I know choose healthier routes and really work hard at maintaining their health.
What are your favorite ballet brands?
I will forever love Gaynor Minden, they have the most amazing products and a wide variety too. The best part is that they are an American made brand. When it comes to leotards, I really like a lot of brands but Simply Stella, Lucky Leo and Blue Water Dance Wear are probably the top contenders.
If there was one other dance style you could master, what would it be?
I would absolutely love to be a ballroom dancer. Ballroom just looks so fun but yet technical at the same time!
What’s the best part about training at Master Ballet Academy?
The best part is being able to train where I’ve grown up. I know a lot of families have traveled and separate their families to get good training so I feel fortunate to be able to train right here in my home town.
What are some things that Irena and Slawomir have instilled in you as an artist?
Irena and Slawomir have given me so many things but the best thing I have gain from them is a great foundation of ballet and technique from which I can grow from. I will be forever grateful for this.
In addition to faculty, is there a student or friend that inspired you every day?
Over the years there have been so many great dancers. Each one of them have had something that has inspired me whether it be technique, artistry, flexibility, turnout or simply just being a kind person.
You’re an amazing turner—what’s one tip you have for pointe beginners when it comes to maintaining balance?
My best tip would be to take your time to find correct form. Balance comes from core strength. Find exercises that work your core.
You’re brilliant all-around, but do you consider yourself a “turner” rather than a “jumper?” When did you know that turning was your thing?
Neither one has come natural to me. I’ve had to work very hard on my turns and there are still things I’m correcting. I think turns were just something that got focused on first. Currently, I am working really hard on my jumps and I’m hoping someday they will be just as strong if not stronger than my turns.
Want to keep up with Amber? Follow her on Instagram!
Know someone else we should interview? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration!