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San Clemente Journal

Ballet Academy & Movement - Creating Space for the Art of Dance

Dec 19, 2022 10:32AM ● By Anne Batty

Amanda Cobb, former Jr. Olympian and ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre.

by Anne Batty

In a bright, cheerfully appointed setting at the north end of San Clemente, Amanda Cobb, former Jr. Olympian and ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) New York, has created a unique and special place. It is one where professional dancers, those aspiring to be, and those who simply love to dance as a means of exercise or self-expression can come to practice, learn and expand their skills. And in opening this welcoming space, her goal is to provide an opportunity for the appreciation of this art to grow and thrive in the community.

Amanda with her class of future ballarinas.

 Upon meeting Amanda and speaking with her about this new endeavor, Ballet Academy & Movement, it is obvious that she not only loves what she is doing, she is definitely doing what she loves. Her eyes shine and her voice resonates with excitement as she offers a tour of her newly established dance academy and speaks of how she hopes to accomplish her many goals.

“From the time I was very young, I was always interested in movement,” she shared. “During a time when I was preparing for the Jr. Olympics’ exhibition I took a ballet class as a part of my training. I was instantly hooked, and begged my mom to let me train to be a ballerina. She laughed and said … ‘first the Olympics.’ From that time forward I worked very hard, to achieve my goal of becoming a principal ballerina in a renowned ballet company.”

After having spent many years dancing all around the world, Amanda began teaching the art form in professional settings. It was during that time that she discovered a new passion. As she instructed dancing professionals and students in all stages of development, before and during the pandemic via Zoom, she realized that these dancers were all yearning for a unique and special place where they could practice, learn and advance further in the art. Thus the search for such a space led her from her home in Tucson, AZ to coastal California.
Crediting her mother, Kathleen Kennedy, with helping her bring her dream to fruition Amanda said, “This absolutely could not have happened without my mom. She is a very important part of the academy and she remains involved today taking care of the administration from her home in Tucson. It has been very special creating this endeavor and naming the academy with her.”
Finding the perfect building in the Sprout’s Shopping Center, Amanda signed a temporary lease and began teaching one-on-one and group classes in just one studio. Before long, all three studios were filled with students. As a result a newly refurbished space now offers three, well-lighted, charmingly decorated studios complete with full-length mirrors (one with visitor viewing) as well as Pilates and Gyrotonic exercise equipment. This equipment is available to dancers as well as the general public for access to exercises that help strengthen, lengthen and maintain stronger bodies. 

The academy’s grand opening celebration was held in July of 2021, in the parking lot outside the academy. For this event, Amanda’s connections in the ballet world afforded her opportunity to provide the public with performances by former and current professional ballerinas as well as students. Those professionals performing included: Skylar Campbell former principal ballerina National Ballet of Canada, current principal dancer Houston Ballet; Jaclyn Oakley  current company member National Ballet of Canada; Reka Gyulai former principal dancer California Ballet, currently a freelance dancer; Lester Gonzalez current member Dayton Ballet Company; Shannon Quirk current member Madison Ballet Company; Holly Meacham former member California Ballet Company, currently a freelance dancer; Joshua Binowitz current member Tulsa Ballet Company; and Jasmine Gilbert former student and current trainee Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Ballet and Academy & Movement presently offers practice space for professionals and students, ballet classes (group and one-on-one), a variety of other dance forms and individual exercise sessions. “I started adding classes as my students’ needs and desires expanded. I even added a hip-hop class because my young son was so interested,” Amanda said, “And during the pandemic current ABT soloist Luciana Paris and I created a virtual summer program entitled Dance Compania, attended virtually by high-level professional students from all over the world. The program’s faculty included superstars from the world’s most prestigious companies including Misty Copeland, Marianela Nunez, Polina Seminiova, Isabella Boylston, James Whiteside, Paloma Herrera, Sascha Radetsky, Lucia Lacarra, Skylar Brandt, Devon Teuscher, Thomas Forster, Anna Liccica and more.”
Amanda’s education, experience and connection in the world of dance has not only afforded her opportunity to expose her students to professional dancers, but has helped her to select highly-qualified instructors for her academy.   
• Kaitlyn Carson - ballet, jazz & hip-hop. A choreographer and teacher, she has conducted workshops for nonprofits and elementary schools, and taught community classes for professional dancers. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (BFA) from Colorado State University focused on dance, choreography, performance, and pedagogy.
• Cara Hansvik - ballet, pointe & Pilates/Gyrotonics. A former principal dancer with the American Contemporary Ballet and dancer with Charlotte Ballet, she also teaches and choreographs for Ballet Project Orange County. Her BS in Ballet Performance and Arts Management is from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
• Courtney Lyall - ballet, jazz, musical theater & tap. A dance and musical theater teacher for many years, her Bachelor’s degree from Cal State Fullerton focuses on early childhood education. She has a Montessori certification from UC Irvine and has also taught Pre-School.
• Sandrine Mattei - ballet, pre-pointe & contemporary dance. A dancer with the National Opera Ballet Theater of Bordeaux, France, she was the Dance Captain/Artist Coach and featured performer with Cirque Du Soleil, Las Vegas. Her other performances include the Grammy Awards, MusiCares with Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, America’s Got Talent, the NHL Awards, Latin Grammy Awards, GLAAD Media Awards, Soleil: Worlds Away 3D movie directed by James Cameron, and other movies, as well as commercials and videos.
• Theresa Turner - gymnastics, acro (acrobatic dance), stretching/flexibility and Gymnastics for Cheer. She has been a teacher in the Orange County area for 35 years.

Along with excellent instruction in the art of dance, the academy provides opportunities for students to learn the proper deportment that is a part of the art and to prepare for summer workshops, auditions, universities and the professional world. Courtesy and respect for the instructors and class participants are an important part of each class. “We strive to aid in the development of our students’ growth as individuals as well as dancers,” Amanda remarked.    

Open only a little over a year academy students have already had many opportunities to perform, compete and make connections with professional ballet dancers and companies. Dancing opportunities outside the studio have included the Stuttgart Ballet’s first summer intensive in the Ukraine, participation in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) in which many students achieved placement in the top 12, placement in the top three at California Dance Classics (CDC) and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places at the Velocity Dance Convention &Competition tours around the country. 

“My immediate goal is to get the students performing,” Amanda emphasized. “We have had performances at the 2021/22 Festival of Butterflies in San Juan Capistrano, in the 2022 San Clemente Fiesta, the 2022 National Dance Day at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, and more. And while participation in the competitions is great for forming group camaraderie, performing remains our main goal, along with providing practice space and training for serious dancers seeking a place in a well-known company.” 
To that end, many of her students have had the opportunity to train with the Paris Opera, Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Los Angeles Ballet and others.
Well on her way to accomplishing her goals, Amanda Cobb isn’t ready to stop there. She has many more dreams for her burgeoning business. At the heart of it all is her obvious love for the art of ballet in its entirety … the musical accompaniment, the story it tells, the feeling it evokes and the beauty, appreciation and enjoyment the art offers to the public. This is her deepest longing …to impart a love of the art to her students as well as to those who come to view, enjoy and absorb its magic.