Listen to Learn:
Amy Bramlett Turner, of Hot Springs, AR, received her early ballet training from Edmond Cooper and her jazz, tap, contemporary, and clog training from Andrea Pierkowski. She completed her BFA in Ballet and Modern Dance as a Nordan Fine Arts Scholar at Texas Christian University in 2011. While attending TCU, she also received the Adrienne Miller Perner Scholarship and the Jerry Bywaters Cochran Scholarship from North Texas Dance Council while completing coursework in Educational Studies and Arts Administration. Amy has danced as a featured soloist in modern, contemporary and classical ballets in works choreographed by Robert Battle, Li-Chou Cheng, Susan Douglas Roberts, Elizabeth Gillaspy, Jeff Hseing, Loretta Livingston, Jenny Mendez, Thom Clower, and Edisa Weeks. Amy also performs as a guest artist annually with the North Arkansas Dance Theatre and Hot Springs Children’s Dance Theatre in roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Arabian Dancer, and Snow Queen in their the productions of The Nutcracker. Amy has performed in the Hot Springs Children’s Dance Theatre Co. spring productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella. Most recently, she works as the resident choreographer and principal dancer with the Muses Creative Project, including their productions such as “Guys and Dolls,” “Celtic Spring,” “Broadway Cabaret,” and “Voices of Angels.”
Amy studied physical theatre in the United Kingdom, interned with Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, toured and performed with Young! Tanzsommer in Europe, and was a top 60 finalist in Season 8 of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Amy is a four-time Oaklawn Foundation Scholar (2016-2019), was nominated for the 2015 Young Professional of the Year by the Hot Springs’ Greater Chamber of Commerce, awarded the Avant-Garde Honoree Award by ACANSA Arts Festival (2015), and was voted the 2018 Teacher of the Year for Garland County in the Hot Springs Sentinel Record. In 2019, she earned the title of Teacher of the Year for Hot Springs World Class High School. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with her Masters in Dance Education (2019).
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[00:00:40] KM: My guest today, Mrs. Amy Bramlett Turner, is a professional ballerina. To grasp the totality of this artist, you need to know, she not only dances in toe shoes, but she’s also a trained jazz tap and contemporary dancer as well as a clogger too.
Amy has danced all over the world, on land and at sea, having worked for both Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruise Lines. In addition, she has been a featured soloist dancer in countless works across Europe and the United States. I would list them, but some of these European names are just too big for me.
Two of her experiences you will easily recognize. She was an intern with Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and a top 60 finalists in season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance? Today, Amy has a master’s in dance education and is sharing her passion with students at Hot Springs Middle and high schools. She says, “I’m working toward my lifelong goal of dedicating myself to exposing students to the power of dance and bringing my experience and knowledge to my hometown of Hot Springs and Central Arkansas.
It is a pleasure to welcome to the table the ballerina, choreographer, dance teacher and community activist, Mrs. Amy Bramlett. Amy, are you still dancing?
[00:02:01] ABT: I’m kind of old now. I don’t perform ballet fulltime anymore, but I guess that’s one hat I wear.
[00:02:09] KM: When does a ballerina have to hang up her to shoes?
[00:02:13] ABT: Oh, there are so many that dance well into their 60s.
[00:02:16] KM: No. No. No. No.
[00:02:17] ABT: Yes. It happens these days, but it takes – It’s a lifelong. Ballet and dance in general, once you’re captivated by it, it’s a lifelong passion. So, a lot of people, they’ll never hang them up. For me, when I turned my lift into more a teaching profession, I still performed on the side and on weekends and several Nutcrackers. But then when I got pregnant with my child, I hung them up, because –
[00:02:51] KM: Which was a year and a half ago?
[00:02:52] ABT: Yes ma’am. I would have been like 8 months pregnant in the Nutcracker. So I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t fit my tutu, right?
[00:03:00] KM: I think it could have been cute.
[00:03:02] ABT: Right? You sound like Cindy. I am thinking about it’s a possibility that I’m going to be the sugar plum fairy in North Arkansas Dance Theaters Nutcracker this year. So we’re working on that. I got to get back in my ballerina shape.
[00:03:18] KM: Your tutu.
[00:03:19] ABT: Yeah.
[00:03:20] KM: That’s quite a drive to go, practice for rehearsal.
[00:03:24] ABT: Well, being the sugar plum fairy, that’s something I’ve done since I was 18.
[00:03:28] KM: You know it.
[00:03:28] ABT: Yeah. So, it’s just a matter of rehearsing with a partner, and we go up, we rehearse the night before and then we put on three shows within the next two days. So it’s like a 3, 4-day thing. Not a —
[00:03:40] KM: You know, one thing that people don’t think about is, is you can be a painter and you can hang up your brushes and then you can come back to paint. But you can never stop – I mean, a dancer is an athlete. You can never stop practicing. You’ll lose it.
[00:03:56] ABT: Everyday, your muscles and your body changes your everyday. Since our body is our instrument, you have to keep in class. You have to go back to that ballet bar or that technique class all the time to keep your body as a well-tuned instrument. So, yes, I’m trying to get on that for this Nutcracker season. But we’ll see.
[00:04:21] KM: You have to get a regiment going?
[00:04:22] ABT: Yes. Well, and a lot of it, it’s just hard teaching fulltime to also go and take class. But I try to do as much full out with my kids as I can, because that helps as well.
[00:04:35] KM: Was your mother a dancer?
[00:04:36] ABT: She wasn’t. My dad says I get my dancing legs from him, but neither one of them were dancers, like professionally. But they have been my biggest number ones from day one.
[00:04:49] KM: When did you start taking dance?
[00:04:51] ABT: Well, I used to put on shows for my families when I was like probably 5 or 6-years-old, but I didn’t start taking actual, like going to actual dance classes until I was 8. I took with Andrea Perkowski in Hot Springs and she’s still one of like my best mentors and role models, and she’s just one of those lifelong educators. So, I still look to her and I think a lot of how I teach is stemmed from her. Then my ballet teacher, Edmond Cooper. He’s also in Hot Springs. So, I started with them when I was 8.
[00:05:26] KM: Are you supposed to – Is there a certain age that you should start? If I’ve got a young daughter or son – Gray, you actually went to ballet class.
[00:05:34] GM: It’s true. I did, when I was 6-years-old.
[00:05:37] ABT: Yes. It depends on the kid. I think some kids, they need more experience socializing or expanding their creativity. So it really just depends on your child, but I think 4, 5 is a good age.
[00:05:57] KM: That seems so early to me.
[00:05:57] ABT: But 8 is not too late.
[00:06:00] KM: Misty Copeland. I read about her. You know how old she was when she took her first ballet class?
[00:06:06] ABT: I think almost a teen, right?
[00:06:07] KM: Just 13-years-old.
[00:06:08] ABT: Yeah, I think she’s probably 13.
[00:06:09] KM: And everybody is like, “Oh, that’s too late,” and she’s the best in the world.
[00:06:12] ABT: Well, you just have to work hard. It’s all about work ethic.
[00:06:16] KM: Don’t you think it’s also you have to have the muscular structure for it?
[00:06:22] ABT: So much of the dance world has been known that you have to a certain size and a certain height, a certain body shape, or a certain skin color even. But –
[00:06:35] KM: Well, she’s African-American. So doesn’t work.
[00:06:37] ABT: Exactly. It’s so wonderful now in our day that we are actually breaking those barriers. That dance is all inclusive. That you can be anybody type, height, shape, skin color. There’s a big movement right now with tights and shoes coming in more than just pink, because the ballet pink tights are typical of – It’s a tradition. But ballet came from Europe and it was Caucasian people. It has a Caucasian history.
So now in our world, especially in America when we have so much diversity, the dance world is finally like embracing and catering to that, I think. So that’s really exciting, especially for my kids. I have a very diverse population, full of beautiful kids from different backgrounds. So to give them the opportunity to dance, that they might not necessarily have if it wasn’t provided in the public school system, then it’s quite amazing, quite inspiring.
[00:07:40] KM: I think I read in high profile that Little Rock, Arkansan’s recent mayor, Frank Scott, took ballet. I know he took a lot of dance and I know he loves dancing. I think he said – I should have checked that. But I think he said in that high profile that he took ballet and loved it.
[00:08:01] ABT: Well, it’s a beautiful individual art form that you do as a group. It has that athletic team quality about it where you are dancing with other people. You are training. It’s a discipline. But it’s also a very individual artistic expression. I think that’s what is so special and what’s so specific about any kind of dance education, is that you get that athletic training as a group. So you get that camaraderie and that relationship with people, but it’s also very individual.
[00:08:32] KM: There’s no better figure than a male ballerina. I’m just saying right now.
[00:08:37] ABT: Yes.
[00:08:39] KM: They have got the best muscle structure, because they have to hold those girls up. Now, it is a detriment to be too tall. Just because when you spread your arms out and you’re doing circles, your center of gravity and your arms are way out there. I mean, I’m kind of a tall girl. When you get past 5”4’, it gets hard to do a turn and stay straight. You kind of like spin out, like a tall –
[00:09:01] ABT: Yeah. But then at the same time, I think it’s just about finding and accepting your body and finding the most efficient way to move. Because some of my tallest girls, I have a couple that are 5”9’, 5”10’. They try to dance so little like the other girls. I said, “No, loves. You have to expand and you fly through the sky. You sore. You touch the walls. You reach past the ceiling, because it’s all about embracing your body and finding the most efficient way to dance. That way you can dance forever and you don’t have to retire when you’re 20-years-old.”
[00:09:37] KM: Speaking of the tall girls, the extension that they have is beautiful, and their leaps and their gazelles. But the turns are extremely hard for them.
[00:09:48] ABT: It’s just finding that different center of gravity, yeah. I’m 5”3’ and like three-quarters.
[00:09:56] KM: That’s a perfect height for a ballerina, because you put on a three inch toe shoe.
[00:09:59] ABT: Right. But most people, a lot of times, you go into auditions and if you’re not 5”4-1/2’, 5”5’ or whatever their specific type is for the company or the job, they’ll just say, “Thank you very much.” But a lot of directors or choreographers, they always thought I was taller than I really am, because I dance big. But I was taught to take up space and to how to control that center of gravity and to move through space. To always dance bigger than I was. So, it’s just a matter –
[00:10:29] KM: Do you think everybody should take dance?
[00:10:31] ABT: I do. I think that dance education should be not an elite thing that only people that can afford private instruction should have. I think it should be within the public school system, like how I’m so fortunate to be at Hot Springs School District, where I get to teach 7th through 12th grade. So, I see them for years and I’m their dance teacher for years.
So, I see them first. Maybe they had never been in a dance class before. When they think dance, they think maybe something on YouTube, or they think So You Think You Can Dance or they have their own or maybe they think dance maybe is how their family does. They have salsa at home. So they all have their own experiences. So to be culturally responsive to that and say yes, dance lives in all of us, but just in different ways. Then this let me help you find the technique and alignment so that you can be efficient in your movement.
[00:11:31] KM: It does help with confidence.
[00:11:32] ABT: Oh my gosh! So much.
[00:11:34] KM: So much.
[00:11:34] ABT: So much. It’s an individual artistic expression. They find their voice. They find themselves.
[00:11:40] KM: What do you think is the hardest thing about dancing?
[00:11:44] ABT: I think sometimes it’s ourselves. I’ve had students that they think that it’s not possible for them to do it, because maybe of their skin color or their height or their weight or their body structure or maybe –
[00:11:58] KM: Something about their appearance.
[00:11:59] ABT: Yeah, or something. Maybe just they’re not financially able, or maybe they have this wallop that says, “You’re not good enough, or you’ll never be good enough.”
So I think the hardest part is getting past that, where if I can help instill in them just a wee bit of self-confidence and how that this is my body, that I’m proud of my body, and here’s how I can make it stronger and more flexible and more efficient. To really instill that loving your body, to take care of their body so that maybe they don’t grow up to be smokers or have eating disorders and they really invest in their instrument. I think that’s hard.
[00:12:47] KM: I looked at some of your choreography that you did on your website, which is what is your website? Amy Bramlett?
[00:12:52] ABT: It is. Oh, lordy! It’s new. Amy – I think it’s –
[00:12:55] KM: Well, I think I just Googled Amy Bramlett and it just came right up.
[00:12:58] ABT: It’s a website.
[00:13:00] KM: And I went to it, and you have a lot of videos about some of the stuff you do, and you really do embrace the differences in all of your children. You choreograph the most fluid and pretty dancer, and you can tell they are in love with it. It was very, very uplifting. If anybody is listening and is interested in any kind of dance, they should go to your website. Just get inspired, and I don’t know what should they do next, Amy?
[00:13:30] ABT: Well, I think just reach out. I have my website. I think it’s amydbramlett.wix site, because I haven’t gotten the domain yet. .danceeducator. I think that’s what it is.
[00:13:44] KM: But not everybody lives in Hot Springs is going to be listening to this show.
[00:13:47] ABT: Right. If you go online, I have a Hot Springs junior academy in World Class High School Dance, and I try to post everything. I also have the Hot Springs Dance Troup, which is our advanced company that is audition only. That they all go to Hot Springs High School.
[00:14:06] KM: Are there sponsorships for people that want to take dance?
[00:14:08] ABT: Yes.
[00:14:08] KM: What kind?
[00:14:09] ABT: Well, right now, we fundraise for so much, and you name it, we’ve done it. We just did a carwash. We go out, we sell ads for our programs. So, we’re always looking for sponsors for our t-shirts. The best part of my program I think at Hot Springs is that the kids don’t pay for costumes or shoes. They can buy their own issues if they want to. But nobody pays for a costumes, because costumes are expensive and I don’t believe that any child should not get one if they can’t afford it and it shouldn’t be a financial burden. So they pay $25 for their t-shirt for the year, and that’s the only thing they have to pay for and everything else is provided.
So we do that through these sponsorships of ads for our program. We do all the typical things. We sell cookie dough and have car washes. But they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’re always looking for sponsorships if you want to sponsor just one child. If you want to pay $25, and that’s there, and it gets them a t-shirt a free leotard you know so that they really feel like a dancer. Because sometimes kids come in and they see the ballet bars and it’s their first time in the studio with Marley floor and mears and a sound system.
[00:15:30] KM: It’s intimidating.
[00:15:31] ABT: And it’s very intimidating. Yes. So, just getting them on top of that. Getting them into a form fitting leotard and tights. They’re like, “Whoa! What’s this?” But they need to see their muscles. They need to see their alignment so that they can begin that process of accepting their body and celebrating their unique qualities as an individual.
[00:15:51] KM: I love it. I had my son sign up for ballet for one whole year. I think you did it. But at least he did it.
[00:15:58] GM: I’d say a year and a half.
[00:15:59] KM: A year and a half?
[00:15:59] GM: I think I was 5 and 6, and then once in high school, and that was it.
[00:16:02] KM: Oh, that’s right. You did tap in high school. All three of my boys took tap in high school. You know how the teachers love that. The teachers are like, “Three boys. I got three boys.”
[00:16:15] ABT: I would be jumping up and down.
[00:16:15] KM: I know. It was fun. But now let’s talk about education and training. How important is it to go to college for dance? Can you not go to college and be a professional dancer?
[00:16:28] ABT: You can. There are so many different path ways. It kind of just depends what genre you’re going. What your goal is. For me, I knew I wanted to perform and I really wanted to – In high school, I wanted to go – And this is a great thing. I went to Hot Springs High School. So I now teach at my alma mater. So I bleed very black and gold.
I remember in high school, I wanted nothing more to get out of Arkansas to dance, because I was a teenager and I just want to dance. But my ballet teacher and my other just high school teachers, they strongly encourage me to dance in college instead of just trying to make it.
[00:17:16] KM: You were just going to go to New York.
[00:17:17] ABT: Well, I was never really drawn to New York for whatever reason.
[00:17:20] KM: Where were you going to go?
[00:17:21] ABT: I don’t know. Whoever wanted to hire me. I didn’t care. I’d go anywhere. But I’m so glad. I did the audition thing. So I audition for Julliard, and Oklahoma has really great dance programs. Then I went to TCU, which is Texas Christian University, which is actually where my ballet teacher went to school. So, he was kind of pushing me there.
I was an alternate for their big dance scholarship my first years. I ended up going to TCU and I was accepted as a ballet and modern dance major, and they gave me scholarships. So, after my first year there, I was an alternate for the big – They only give two $40,000 scholarships. So I was an alternate for that. After my freshman year, they gave that to me. So I had that for the rest of my time there.
I think I really push for my kids to go to college and study dance, because it not only continues your training, but you get to be in different choreographer’s works. You get to train with amazing people, make connections, network. I think at TCU I learned not only how to be a professional and how to market myself, but also how to be a teacher. How to be a choreographer. How to be a lighting designer. So how to saw costumes. You learn all the different hats that you’ll have to wear so that they’re making you an active artist. They’re not just making you a dancer.
So different university programs have different focus. You can study dance pedagogue or go more the performance –
[00:18:58] KM: What’s dance pedagogue?
[00:18:59] ABT: Like teaching. You can go more like dance education way or you can go performance, or you can go ballet versus modern or jazz. So there’ a lot of different university programs. UA Little Rock now has their degree program. When I was in school, it wasn’t there. So, that wasn’t an option for me –
[00:19:19] KM: UA Little Rock has a dance program?
[00:19:21] ABT: Yes.
[00:19:20] KM: Oh! It has a ballet program, doesn’t it?
[00:19:22] ABT: Yes. I think they now offer a BFA, like a bachelors in fine arts, and a BA. So that’s really – They’re just slightly different focused programs I believe. I actually had 7 seniors audition from Hot Springs World Class High School, and I had 7 accepted, and four of those were on scholarship. So that was a really life-changing moment for me and my kids.
[00:19:47] KM: And for them.
[00:19:48] ABT: Yeah, for them. Oh my gosh! They didn’t even think that that was an option.
[00:19:53] KM: It validates you as a teacher, doesn’t it?
[00:19:55] ABT: Oh, it does. I think as an educator too, I feel like I constantly have to advocate for our program and for my kids. Because sometimes people have different ideas of dance, just like the kids have different ideas of what a dance class is when they walk into my studio. Administrators, community members, they all have different ideas as well. So I think giving them as much information as possible. Showing them all the different training that comes with the dance education, that, and then having seniors get scholarships.
[00:20:28] KM: You don’t realize how much goes into, how much there is if you want to go living and choreography and costumes and sets. If you want to do all of that, it can get very deep. I hear people talk a lot about technique. Is that what you learn in college from the different dance instructors?
[00:20:47] ABT: Well, you have to have a strong technique as growing up. I stress technique to my kids. It’s not just about creating pretty dances or not so pretty dances. It’s about giving them that strong foundation of classical and contemporary technique so that when they go to college – Because when they go to audition, it’s going to be a ballet class and a modern class or –
[00:21:11] KM: So when you talk about technique, are you talking about the ballet positions? Is that the technique we talked about?
[00:21:16] ABT: Yeah. So you’re using turnout. Having the flexibility and the efficiency to work through turned-out and turned-in positions and modern and jazz dance, they work through turned-out and parallel. So, if you don’t know, if you haven’t been in a dance class and you go to audition for a dance program, you’re going to be lost. So, it’s hard for me – I have my kids within the school day. So I try to structure it very strong that we have ballet days and modern days and jazz days and give them units of study in tap and clog so that they get a strong foundation and technique, but also exposure to African dance, and to clogging and different world forms.
[00:22:01] KM: Well, I see on your resume that you sent me, I see under education, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – I think I see 5 or 6 universities you went to.
[00:22:13] ABT: Well, I studied –
[00:22:14] KM: Or where they special classes or continuing education maybe?
[00:22:18] ABT: Yes. Yes. So –
[00:22:20] KM: The Tulsa Ballet.
[00:22:21] ABT: Tulsa Ballet, I did as –
[00:22:21] KM: That’s a very prominent –
[00:22:23] ABT: Yes. I was only 15 or 16. I did that for a couple of summers. Those are what we call summer intensives. So, you go for like two to four weeks somewhere and you study.
[00:22:34] KM: You can do that when you’re in high school.
[00:22:36] ABT: Oh, yes. Actually have – Oh, I think I have like five or six students right now. I have one at TBT, which is at TCU. So, that’s Texas Ballet Theater. I have one at the Glenda Brown Project in Kansas City right now. I have one student at Ballet Arkansas right now and another – I have two others at Arkansas Governor School right now, which they’re not dancing, but they use their choreography experiences in their application for Governor School.
[00:23:04] KM: Are they all girls or are there any boys?
[00:23:06] ABT: Those students are all girls. I do have – I think I have less than 10 boys in my program. But it kind of fluctuates. Sometimes I have a couple of more, a couple less.
[00:23:19] KM: If they knew that they were going to get to whole girls up in the air in skimpy leotards, I don’t know why all of them wouldn’t sign up for it.
[00:23:27] ABT: I try. We have a National Honor Society for Dance Arts. We just established the chapter last year. So this was our first full year. It’s a national organization. The kids have to have so many points and they earn points by participating in so many different dance courses and performances, flash mobs, and that kind of thing. My leaders of that National Honor Society, they started, they lead the stretching, and we had to call it stretching yoga. But it was our really our jazz warm up for the basketball team this year.
[00:24:00] KM: Harder than it looks, isn’t it basketball players?
[00:24:02] ABT: Yes. They did it twice, and we’re going to blame it on scheduling that they didn’t come back. We’re hoping that we’ll do it more this year. Because our basketball team is very good, but they’re not flexible.
[00:24:14] KM: Yes, I know.
[00:24:14] ABT: Sometimes it helps with injury prevention to have that flexibility and to have that kind of ritual that you could do before games to get in the zone and in your body. That way your body has like a way.
[00:24:30] KM: Dancing With the Stars has had a couple of athletes on there. The Dallas Cowboy running back. He said it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done, and he was a champion Dallas Cowboy running back for years and he won Dancing With the Stars in the second or third season. There was another one on there that talked about the discipline of dancing, how incredibly hard it is.
[00:24:54] ABT: Well, because you not only have to do it, but you have to look good doing it too.
[00:24:58] KM: You also were somewhere in England.
[00:25:01] ABT: Yeah. Ormskirk.
[00:25:03] KM: Omskirk, England.
[00:25:04] ABT: Omskirk. So I was fortunate enough to study aboard when I was at TCU, and we studied physical theater over in England and got to go to the Fringe Festival in Scotland, and it’s just one of those moments in your life where I knew that this had changed to me as an artist. So a lot of my work now that I do with my students at Hot Springs is that we work something called social justice art.
So we talk about things that bother us in the world, and I find out the kids write about and they watch things to get inspired about anything that bothers in the world. So this part semester, we did poetry, and I brought in a guest poet who’s a famous local poet in Hot Springs, Kai Coggin, and she talked about poetry and poetic devices. She had a collection of social justice poems.
So my students went through and chose a poem based on the social justice issue that they have a problem with. So some of them were abused, immigration, school shootings, gun violence. These were not happy topics. These were very sensitive and sometimes personal topics that some of my kids really experience and go through.
So, it was a little bit scary at first as an educator, because you don’t what they’re going to do. Especially these are high school kids and you’re giving them the power to have a voice. So they took the poem, and that was their structure for their choreography, and this is the first time we had like a student choreography show, and they all did this in school.
Another layer of it is that they couldn’t perform their own work. They had to teach it to another student. So another student might not feel that way about that issue, but they had to embody that and they had to have that kind of open communication and be open to taking risk and supporting their fellow dancer, because they wanted to make that vision come true.
[00:27:14] KM: That is wonderful.
[00:27:16] ABT: I mean, so powerful. My students, they blew me away. They created works that were just gut wrenching, some of them, because it’s coming from them. It’s their voice. I had no say in it. They designed the costume, the music. Some of them read their poems as a music and even have music. That was all part of their choreographic process, and they journal about it along the way to reflect. Then we give each other feedback on it, and it’s very objective. It’s like, “Okay. I saw this. I saw that there was a powerful moment here.” It’s nothing like, “Oh, I didn’t like it.” There’s kind of rules to our discussion.
So we have this reflective feedback process, and there are rules to the discussion and they keep each other inline, because they’re like, “Oh, no! You can’t say you didn’t like it. I really saw that.” That usually means they really liked it, like, “I really saw that you took time to show the force of this and this.” So, just their language –
[00:28:19] KM: How long a period did that take to do? Was it a semester?
[00:28:23] ABT: It was like two months that we spent in-class, and from the time that they chose their poem to performance. It was only two months.
[00:28:33] KM: Did they perform it in front of just each other or in front of other people?
[00:28:36] ABT: They had to perform it in front of just their class, and then they had the option, which I strongly encouraged and might have given extra points if they auditioned it to be in our student choreography show. Most of them did audition. I think there were 32 dancer and 25 of them auditioned. I brought in judges, adjudicators, not judges, but adjudicators to say, “Okay. This one, it’s well-thought out. It’s well-planned. It’s well-rehearsed. This one can go on stage.”
So it has nothing to do with like, “Oh, I didn’t like the dance. So it’s not going.” It’s just about – It’s not about our viewpoints. It’s that we can all have a viewpoint as long as it’s well-rehearsed and well-thought out, then that’s fine.
[00:29:21] KM: What about the injuries that come from being a dancer?
[00:29:25] ABT: I mean, everybody has their tendencies when you’re working. That’s what’s so important about technique class, is to – Like my tendency, I am very pigeon-toed. I get that from my mama.
[00:29:36] KM: You are a ballet dancer and you’re pigeon-toed?
[00:29:38] ABT: I’m very pigeon-toed.
[00:29:39] KM: How’s your turnout?
[00:29:41] ABT: Well, I got to work it. You got to find those muscles to work it. But if I let my ankles roll in, like to pronate, then I was starting to get knee and ankle problems like when I was like 17 or 18. But you have to adjust it and work. I had to figure out what’s right for my body and what my muscles I need to work. It’s a lot of like mind-body connection.
So teaching students to have that mind-body connection is hard. It’s called sematic practice. So teaching them to do that, that helps prevent injuries, because the more you know about your body and the more you know about your tendencies and your habits, the more well-educated and knowledge you are to fix those things so you can have a longer life dancing.
[00:30:28] KM: I’m speaking today with Mrs. Amy Bramlett, professional ballerina and current dance instructor and choreographer at Hot Springs High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I wanted to ask her though what it’s like to perform to travel. I know dancers travel a lot. It’s not a home life. You got to really be dedicated to it. You got to really love it. Was there something that happened a year and a half ago or three years ago? Let’s see, when did you quit? When did you live home? 2015?
[00:30:57] ABT: 1920.
[00:30:59] KM: 2015?
[00:30:59] ABT: 14.
[00:31:00] KM: 2014.
[00:31:01] ABT: Yup, 14.
[00:31:01] KM: Was there something that happened?
[00:31:04] ABT: Yes, actually. So I was dancing on I think it was the Grand Princess, if I remember right, which is a cruise ship, and we were in Alaska I think. Yeah. Something was hurting my foot, and it had been hurting for a little bit and it just felt like sharp pains and it got worse and worse. It’s just something that happens when you wear – It’s typical for actually older women when they wear high heels their whole life. So I had Morton’s neuroma in my –
[00:31:38] KM: What is that?
[00:31:39] ABT: It’s when your nerve is pushed out from between your bones, but the bottom of your – It was pushed to the bottom of my foot. So every time I was pushing off the ball of my foot, which is most of my life, and then heels dancing or in point shoes —
[00:31:58] KM: This was the ball of your –
[00:31:58] ABT: Yeah. Well, it’s the nerve. It was the nerve between my two metatarsal bones and it was being stepped on. Like it had pushed from between the bones to the bottom. So I was walking on nerve and dancing on raw nerve, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. So they disembarked to have surgery at the end of 2013. So I was waiting for my surgery. I was planning to go back to the ship. I just was disembarked, so I was kind of bummed.
But in the meantime, I think that’s when I did like I guest residency at Henderson State with their dance company, because they have a wonderful dance minor program under Jennifer Maddox. I was pulled into teaching at Oaklawn Elementary, which is Hot Springs School District’s performing arts elementary school. I was just waiting for my surgery. I could walk, but I just was in pain.
I actually did a couple Nutcrackers, because what do you do? It was Christmas season. So Nutcracker season.
[00:32:57] KM: Take a lot of pain pills.
[00:32:58] ABT: Right. Yeah, and it’s just one of those things when you’re a dancer, you kind of have that mentality.
[00:33:04] KM: You’re an athlete.
[00:33:05] ABT: Yeah, you’re just an athlete. You have to know your own limits. So I knew I could do it.
[00:33:09] KM: Get a steroid shot in your foot.
[00:33:12] ABT: Oh, no! That’s a big no-no as a dancer, because you always want to feel your body. When you get like a cortisone shot, you can’t feel and then you can hurt yourself worse. So that’s a big no-no.
[00:33:21] KM: I thought that’s what athletes did.
[00:33:23] ABT: I think athletes might – I don’t know. I think athletes might do that, but dancers are taught not to do that, because we’re all about feeling our body and having that mind-body connection, but I could be wrong. I don’t know. So I was waiting for my surgery and I had it right before Christmas. In the meantime, I did meet Mr. Zachary Turner, who’s now my husband, and I had my surgery and I never went back, because they offered me the middle and high school position at Hot Springs School District, and it kind of all fell into my lap and God had a plan, and I didn’t know that that was it.
But I thought I was too young to take that job. But with the mixture of meeting Zach and having the job offered to me, that was kind of a dream come true, because it was my alma mater. It where my parents went to high school. My whole family went to high school there, and I knew that – Like I thought. I didn’t know. I thought I could make a difference maybe.
[00:34:23] KM: I think you are.
[00:34:24] ABT: So, I stuck around. Because I had been traveling to dance for a long time for years. I had missed a couple of Christmases and thanksgivings and sometimes you get tired of being in different time zones all the time, like Skyping my mom and dad at random hours of the night to kind of keep that home connection.
[00:34:45] KM: You graduate from college. You probably get a job as a dance troop?
[00:34:50] ABT: I went straight to Royal Caribbean. I think I graduated in May and I think I packed up all my stuff, took it home. Brought it back to Hot Springs, and then I flew to Florida for rehearsals in June. I was gone.
[00:35:06] KM: Then you were with Royal Caribbean for?
[00:35:08] ABT: I did one ship with them. So I think I was with them – That contract was 8 or 9 months. Then I switched over to Princess Cruise Lines. They just offered me a different contract and then I got to go to Europe. So I did that, because my first one was in the Caribbean. So I went to Europe and saw, I mean, everything. Italy, Venice, Barcelona, France, everywhere.
We see Greece, like just see everywhere and doing what I love and getting to meet so many people from all walks of life, because on cruise ships, I was actually one of probably like 10 Americans of the crew. The crew members are from all over. So dancing and working with people from such different backgrounds. That was really enticing for me. I just wanted to soak up all they knew.
One my dance partners I danced with was from Belarus. It’s like where is that? So just like learning from him and dancing ballroom with him was such an experience. That’s one of those life experiences that I felt very fortunate to have. So did that for a couple of years. Then that’s when I got hurt and came here.
[00:36:24] KM: How many years all totaled were you out?
[00:36:26] ABT: Yeah, I think three and a half, something. Yeah.
[00:36:30] KM: And you went to school for four.
[00:36:31] ABT: Yes.
[00:36:32] KM: Then you were a professional for three. Then five years ago you became a teacher.
[00:36:38] ABT: I did.
[00:36:39] KM: Do all dancers become teachers eventually?
[00:36:40] ABT: No. Not necessarily. That’s kind of like the thought and it makes sense. But not all good dancers are teachers. Just like not all artists are teachers. Some are better choreographers. So they step into that or they go into like arts administration where they’re executive directors, or they work in marketing for a dance company or whatever. That kind of administration kind of thing.
I did not realize that I was such a teacher and that I love dance education. I just graduated with my master’s and dance education from the University of North Carolina at Greenboro.
[00:37:22] KM: While you were teaching, you got a master’s?
[00:37:24] ABT: Yes, and that is a really amazing program, because I actually went to dance in North Carolina for three summers in a row.
[00:37:32] KM: So your foot doesn’t hurt anymore.
[00:37:33] ABT: No. We’re okay. It’s just constantly numb, because there’s no nerve there.
[00:37:38] KM: Is that what they do? They just cut the nerve?
[00:37:39] ABT: Yeah, they like burn it out. So, it’s fun. That’s fine. It’s not a big deal. I think I might have to have it done on the other foot eventually, but it’s fine. So, yeah, the last three years I’ve been not only teaching, but working on my master’s. So it’s like an online program during the year, and we are studying and creating curriculum and implementing it into your classroom. In order to get this master’s, you have to be a teacher in a public school or university setting, like in some kind of – Or a studio setting.
So, learned so much about myself as a teacher, as a person, as an artist, as a choreographer. So now just passing that on to my kids, and they’ve had the curriculum implemented. The poetry unit we were talking about –
[00:38:29] KM: Oh, that came from your master’s class?
[00:38:30] ABT: Yeah, that was my thesis. So I wrote – So I have this 150-paged thesis on all the reflective practice and the cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and how the arts, how it makes so much sense for dance. Dance is such an embodiment of like experience. So it makes so much sense to use dance, to teach all kinds of things, history, and language arts, and all the things.
[00:39:01] KM: I want to take this minute to tell everybody that you’re listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and that I’m speaking today with Mrs. Amy Bramlett, professional ballerina, current dance instructor and choreographer at Hot Springs middle and high school in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Is there a trick to remembering the steps?
[00:39:20] ABT: Yeah, muscle memory.
[00:39:21] KM: That’s the hardest part to me.
[00:39:23] ABT: No, it’s just muscle memory. You got to just do it, repeat it. Some people rely on music. They want to, “Ba-ba, pa-da-da-da-da,” or some people rely on counts where it’s like, “1, 2, 3 and a 4.” So you have to define how your mind – You have to find how your mind and your body interprets the movement and then do it over and over and over and you’ll have muscle memory.
[00:39:45] KM: When it’s a long dance, I’m like, “How can they remember? Your arm goes up here and your legs goes back there and your head goes that way.”
[00:39:52] ABT: That’s how I feel about actors. I’m like, “How do you remember all those lines?”
[00:39:56] KM: I agree.
[00:39:56] ABT: I get so nervous.
[00:39:57] KM: How do they remember all those lines?
[00:39:59] ABT: I don’t know. I get so nervous. I’ve had to – When you’re a dancer, you’re in musicals and things, and so I have lines, and I get more nervous about my two lines than I do dancing for two hours. I don’t know how to do it.
[00:40:15] KM: So if you do dance and you continue – If it’s muscle memory and you are dancing and you keep making the wrong step and you do it again, you make the wrong step, and then you do it and you make the wrong step. How do you ever make the right step?
[00:40:28] ABT: Well, it’s just a matter of breaking down in a different way that works for you.
[00:40:32] KM: Do it slower? Do it right? Do it slower? Do it right?
[00:40:35] ABT: Mm-hmm. Sometimes I have kids that needs the counts. I’m personally like more of rhythm person. If I hear the music and like I kind of sing the steps with the music, that’s how my body remembers. But some kids need counts and some dancers need counts, or they might need to think about it in a mathematical way, because dance and music is very mathematical.
So, I have one particular student I know that I need to break it down mathematically for her. So it’s just a matter of – It’s kind of like that differentiation or instruction and figuring out how each of your kids learn. If there’s something that they’re not doing and you keep telling them, well, you got to find a different way to tell them, because it’s not making sense to them.
[00:41:20] KM: That’s because you care.
[00:41:21] ABT: I do. I care so much. I love them. I’m so blessed to be in my position. We’re the only dance program in Hot Springs. The school districts in Garland County don’t have a dance program. So I feel very blessed that my own alma matter has this beautiful dance program that is like my home. It’s my home. It’s my little dance family.
[00:41:43] KM: It’s like your destiny.
[00:41:44] ABT: It is. I love it.
[00:41:47] KM: How many students do you have?
[00:41:49] ABT: I have 150 every year. I have 15 in my dance troop, which is my audience only company. Two managers and then two apprenticeship. So those are young ladies that might have auditioned – They did audition, but they didn’t make it, but I see potential in them. So I offered them apprenticeship, where they can come to all of our classes and rehearsals and get that experience so the next time when they want to audition, that they’ll be better off.
[00:42:16] KM: I love that. How old is your oldest?
[00:42:19] ABT: Dancer or my child?
[00:42:22] KM: No. Your oldest dancer.
[00:42:23] ABT: Dancer? It’s my senior. So some of them are 18.
[00:42:27] KM: I thought I read where you had 70-year-old dancers.
[00:42:29] ABT: Oh, that’s fun. Yes. When I teach in studios, I have – Or, actually, on cruise ships too. They always want you to teach a dance class. So, it could be 88. I think my oldest tap dancer was 68, but my oldest, Siggy, was like 88. She was wonderful, amazing.
[00:42:51] KM: Was she wonderful? She used to be a dancer or something?
[00:42:54] ABT: No. She just love dancing. She had dance when she was a child, but wasn’t ever professional or anything. But, yes, she was wonderful. That was Mrs. Cathy. She liked to cruise too.
[00:43:07] KM: Well, it’s a great exercise to keep dancing. It brings joy and it’s a great form of exercise. I think everybody should dance. I just love it. One word to sum you up.
[00:43:19] ABT: Oh, I don’t know. What do you think?
[00:43:22] KM: Enthusiastic.
[00:43:23] ABT: Extra? My kids call me extra all the time. You’re so extra Mrs. B.
[00:43:28] KM: Oh, I love that!
[00:43:28] GM: It’s just a modern word for enthusiastic.
[00:43:30] ABT: Yeah, it is. You’re so extra Mrs. B.
[00:43:33] KM: Thank you so much for coming on, Amy. Here’s a gift for you.
[00:43:36] ABT: Oh! Yey!
[00:43:36] KM: I need to tell everybody that you actually performed at Dancing Into Dreamland a couple of years ago. You brought your kids up.
[00:43:43] ABT: So my dance troop was formed when we went to perform at Dancing Into Dreamland in 2015. When we came back from, my administration was like, “Okay. You can have a dance, like a little dance company.” Because I said, “Okay. I took these group of kids.” We went over. They won people’s choice. We’ve already gone to Europe to perform our own rep. We raised $48,000 to take 13 students to Europe, and were in Austria, Germany and Italy in 2018. So we’ve been invited again. It’s called Stars of Tomorrow. So we are currently fundraising for that, for my dance troop now that will be performing in Europe in 2021. So we have a little less than – About a year and a half to raise $48,000 again. So here we go again.
[00:44:30] KM: Congratulations!
[00:44:31] ABT: I think we’re coming back this year, because most of my –
[00:44:34] KM: To Dancing Into Dreamland?
[00:44:34] ABT: Yeah, because most of my original ones, they were only in 8th grade, and now they’re seniors.
[00:44:42] KM: Are they going to be performing?
[00:44:42] ABT: Yes!
[00:44:42] KM: It’s the champion. This year, Dancing Into Dreamland is the tournament of champions and you won. Your dance troop won. So you get to come back –
[00:44:50] ABT: We get to come back.
[00:44:51] KM: I’m so glad they’re going to be around. I’m worried that they wouldn’t be around.
[00:44:54] ABT: No. It’s so full circle. It’s perfect, because they’re seniors, and I now I have all the little ones, my 9th, 10th, 11th graders in there. So it will be their first time.
[00:45:03] KM: Well, let me tell our listeners all about Dreamland Ballroom and what the event is about and how they can get tickets for this year’s event on November the 15th.
[00:45:12] Announcer: Friends of Dreamland are proud to sponsor Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Dreamland Ballroom, located on the 3rd floor of the flagandbanner.com building in the historic Taborian Hall is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing back the music, the history and the party of the Dreamland Ballroom.
Our annual fundraiser, Dancing Into Dreamland, will be a tournament of past champions to celebrate the 10th year. Mark Friday, November 15th at 7PM on your calendar. The night will include a dance competition, where audience members text their votes for their favorite acts. A silent auction, free horderves, cash bar and your opportunity to experience the magic and imagine the music of the legends that played on the Dreamland stage, like Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong and many more.
Tickets available at dreamlandballroom.org for the 10th annual Dancing Into Dreamland. This year the MCs for the event will be Alice 107.7’s Pool Boy and Channel 7’s Marine Glisovic. Be a part of the history of Dreamland.
[00:46:13] KM: I’m getting the signal. We’ve got to go. There’s your t-shirt, Dancing Into Dreamland t-shirt.
[00:46:16] ABT: Thank you.
[00:46:18] KM: Thank you so much Amy Bramlett. I’ve enjoyed you. Thank you to everybody for being with us. We’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:46:27] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed today on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio and choose today’s guest. Subscribe to podcasts wherever you like to listen.
Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.