An Interview with Amy Foley

Amy Foley is one of those rare gems in our local dance community that everyone seems to know and love. I caught up with her to ask about her experience dancing in the Bay Area; how it has changed, how she’s changed, and how that evolution continues.

Emmaly Wiederholt:  How long have you been dancing in San Francisco? What are some dance career highlights?

Amy Foley:  I have been dancing in San Francisco for quite some time. I moved here in 1997 and started dancing with Robert Moses’ Kin in 1999 — so, for about 15 years, depending when you start counting. As for career highlights, I will never forget the day Robert Moses called and asked me to join his company. It happened to be my birthday. That invitation was such a wonderful birthday gift and the start of a great working relationship that continued for many years. RMK was relatively young as a company at that time. We used to rehearse at the old Dance Center/LINES space at 50 Oak on Friday nights until 9:30 and then all day Saturday and Sunday. I could never do that now! Years later, I had the opportunity to dance with Margaret Jenkins Dance Company for 3 or 4 months when one of her dancers, Heidi Schweiker, was injured.That experience was one of the most challenging and rewarding of my dance career. At that point I had been dancing with RMK for something like nine years so it was a little shocking to jump into another company with a very different culture and way of working and to really be the “new kid” even though I already knew the dancers and Margy to a certain extent. We were preparing for a home season at Yerba Buena and a national tour. I had to learn a lot of material relatively quickly and was filling in for a very fierce and featured member of the company. It was intense! In the end, however, it all clicked and I was and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with Margaret Jenkins and that beautiful group. The experience and the people really pushed me to find new ways of approaching movement and performance. All of that said, returning from the tour with MJDC and jumping into rehearsals with RMK, which were already in session, felt like coming home. Nothing beats that feeling. A few years later I found myself dancing for ODC; another new group, another very different culture, and this time I was a sleep-deprived, brand new mom. It was another intense, challenging and ultimately extremely rewarding period. But I have vivid memories in the early weeks of crying in the ODC bathroom as I simultaneously pumped milk for my infant daughter and tried to go over choreography on our break. Don’t get me wrong, the dancers, the directors, everyone was amazing and kind and supportive but I was a bit of a hormonal zombie. Still, the performances I did with ODC were a triumph for me on many levels. I felt I had a lot to prove — mainly to myself, that I could bounce right back after having a baby, that I still “had it”, that I wasn’t “done”. I don’t know that I proved what I felt compelled to but I certainly was challenged and enriched by my time with ODC. I feel very fortunate to have had to opportunity to work with these varied choreographers and all of the gorgeous and hard-working dancers in their companies, whether for a few months or for many years. As I look back over my dance career up to this point, these are some milestones that come to mind. Of course, if you want to talk funny stories, that is another interview and those would mainly come from my years of adventures with RMK! I am currently home with my daughter most days and while it is wonderful in its own way, one the things I miss most about my time in the studio and on the stage is the camaraderie among dancers. Even if you aren’t best friends outside of rehearsal, there is so much vulnerability and teamwork and trust involved in what we do every day — it is a rare and special working relationship.

EW:  How have you watched the Bay Area dance scene change, both for better or for worse?

AF: Of course I have watched dance spaces come, go, morph, and experience the continuous struggle for funding and audiences, but on a more personal level, it has been inspiring to watch the people I used to take class with or watch on stage become master teachers and choreographers in their own right. I feel a sense of pride and sometimes awe as I watch my peers start their own companies and create work that keeps getting better. Also, I am currently excited about the number of “new” spaces to take class but I sometimes chuckle at the divisions and subcultures within our community. I am as guilty as the next person — I guess we dancers can be creatures of habit — but maybe we should all go take some different classes and push out of our comfort zones a bit more. There are many great teachers out there — and not just those with the packed classes.

EW: How have you changed as a dancer over that time?  How has your understanding and priorities of dance changed since becoming a mother?

AF: In general, over the years I have become a more confident dancer. Maybe that just comes with age because I don’t know that I actually got any better per se, but I believe in my abilities more. Perhaps that sounds cliche but it is true. Dance is a bit of a confidence game — some people are born with it and some have to go through a lot of self-doubt in order to come out the other side. I used to spend so much time and energy beating myself up about my body, my turnout, my [fill in the blank], and while those insecurities still exist, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at appreciating my differences and what I DO have, which is a lot. We all do.

Having my daughter, Joss, has made dance both more and less precious to me. On the one hand, because I don’t get to dance every day anymore, and because I have very little time to myself right now, my time dancing is sacred. Right now, taking class is my sanity, my exercise, my church, my meditation, my place to reconnect with who I was before I had her and who I still am. On the other hand, any parent will tell you that the second you have a baby your whole world shifts. The things that were important to you before are still there but they have forever lost rank. There is a new number one and that is all there is to it. But having a child is such a profound experience — I hope, at some point, I can merge my evolution as a parent/person with my creative self more. I am not done dancing and I am not done creating but being a Mama is my reality — I am still trying to find the delicate balance of it all.

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