Amber Doyle trained at the Royal Ballet School and Central School of Ballet, appeared as ballet girl and Meg Giry in the musical Phantom of the Opera, shared the screen with Keira Knightley in the film Anna Karenina and has worked extensively in the commercial world dancing alongside renowned artists such as Madonna, Florence and the Machine, The Brit Awards, Jessie J, Leona Lewis, Michael Jackson tribute, Britney Spears, Calvin Harris, Black Eyed Peas and Franz Ferdinand. She has also performed with ICON in NYC for the Wella Awards and Beijing for the launch of Victoria Beckham’s ‘Range Rover Evoque’ and danced for the Yves Saint Laurent menswear collection for Stefano Pilati. Back on stage, Amber is now about to open in the world premiere of new play McQueen as Dance Captain/Ensemble at the St. James Theatre: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/mcqueen/
With such a bandwidth of performance opportunities one would think that her schedule is surely filled up to the brim. But Amber doesn’t stop there. She also teaches highly popular ballet classes at Pineapple Dance Studios and attends to variety of private students on the weekends, nurturing the next generation of dancers to fulfil their potential. And – this lady has not had a lie-in for years as her natural alarm clock is two and a half year old Alfie who has started a commercial modelling career of his own recently. So how does she juggle jet setting to remote Swiss filming locations with rehearsing till dawn and still being there for Alfie’s bath time? And what’s it like to share the stage with McQueen’s female lead, Glee star Dianna Agron?
Wolfing down Sushi in a packed Itsu during her tech rehearsal lunch break, Amber shares her thoughts with me…
1. You are about to open in new play McQueen about the legendary fashion icon Alexander McQueen – tell us a bit about your role and the production.
I am one of the ensemble dancers and also the dance captain for the production. This means that I lead the warm ups for the company before every performance and also help out with any choreography related questions the cast might have if the choreographer is not available. In case there are any injuries I make sure the appropriate dance cover is arranged so that the show can go on. I am also there to go through step practice with the cast in addition to the set rehearsals. All of us girls in the production share a dressing room including Dianna, which is lovely, as we able to bond closely and support each other throughout.
“I believe utter professionalism at all times makes a woman inspirational, as well as creating an honest and positive working environment and always striving for improvement – pushing for that little extra.”
2. How do you approach a dance/acting role as part of a play rather than a pure dance production? What are the differences in preparation and throughout the run?
As a dancer I am very used to turning up, being placed on certain parts of the stage and given set choreography to perform. Being a part of McQueen has been a real eye-opener because the thought-process here very much is about doing what is “right” for the character. Actors question why as to why they would move to certain points at particular points in the play. As a dancer, you simply follow the directions and staging you are given. But the choreography in McQueen has been much more of a developmental journey where each dance moves is connected to an acting purpose and the choreography has evolved throughout the rehearsal process. The dancers in this play are often links between scenes and each have their own very distinct personality and character. This way of putting together movement in a production means that as a dancer you can be part of the discussion and input, which has been a fantastic learning experience for me.
3. How does one get back into the ballet and dance routine (and physical shape) after pregnancy? Any secret tips?
I danced and taught class up to 35 weeks of pregnancy and was actually on my cross trainer the day before I gave birth! I returned to dance when Alfie was eight weeks old but all in all it took about a year to get fully back into dancer’s shape with full muscle regeneration. I started with slow Pilates, which I can highly recommend and also joined a class called Buggy Bells where I worked out alongside other mums doing exercises with our pushchairs around the park, which was great fun. I think the secret is taking it slowly, listening to your body – and as a dancer, staying away from jumping for a while.
4. You have danced for and with some true music legends. Who did you find most inspirational?
Watching Madonna direct was very inspiring – she is incredibly focused on every detail as well as the full picture. She loves dancers so was genuinely concerned about how we were feeling throughout the whole experience. Jessie J bought us all champagne and cupcakes after a rather gruelling filming day. My personal favourite was Florence and the Machines whom I danced with at the Brits – she was incredibly dedicated, professional and very considerate of everyone at all times. I find it so inspirational when artists are able to stay highly professional even throughout the most stressful times of the rehearsal and performance process.
“This way of putting together movement in a production means that as a dancer you can be part of the discussion and input, which has been a fantastic learning experience for me.”
5. The ballet world has a reputation for damaging female dancers’ feet due to the wearing of pointe shoes – what are your views on this?
I must admit I don’t have very pretty feet. In fact, my husband dislikes them so much he makes me wear socks all the time! There is a lot of pressure on our feet as a dancer but ballet does not actually harm them if you are properly trained. I used to dip my toes in surgical spirit every night to harden the skin around my big toe. I need to avoid pedicures though because they scrap away all that whole protective layer leaving you in agony en pointe!
6. You have worked as a dance body double in films for some very high profile actors – do you have any entertaining stories to share?
When I was filming as a dance body double for Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina I wore a stunning necklace as part of my scenes. It turned out to be so valuable that it had its own security team and 24/7 bodyguard!
7. As a working mother, who do you rely on to help you juggle everything and what do you find most challenging?
It can be very tough. I don’t know how I would be able to afford constant child care without my parents around to look after Alfie whenever I am unable to be there for him. Alfie is a bundle of energy so my rest times are limited, which can be tricky in terms of keeping energy levels up. But he does attend nursery three times a week, which gives me some me time.
8. What are your future aspirations (career or personal)?
I would love to focus more on acting. Working with renowned director John Caird on McQueen has really spurned me on to develop further as an actor. I was honoured to be cast by him and am now keen to focus on taking that further. I also love my teaching and am planning to have a second child at some point.
“I must admit I don’t have very pretty feet. In fact, my husband dislikes them so much he makes me wear socks all the time!”
9. Who have been your inspirations and why? What do you believe makes an inspirational woman?
Darcy Bussell was my idol while training as a dancer – such athleticism and a strong, powerful woman in all aspects who has taken so many new roads in her career since leaving the Royal Ballet. I am also a great fan of Helena Bonham-Carter and the amount of character work she puts into all her performances. I believe utter professionalism at all times makes a woman inspirational, as well as creating an honest and positive working environment and always striving for improvement – pushing for that little extra. It’s also about being brave enough to get out of your comfort zone and actually go down the trickier path when standing at a crossroads.
Amber will be appearing in McQueen the play at the St. James Theatre from 12 May to 27 June: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/mcqueen/