"I feel free when I dance, it's an escape and a way of praise — I dance as a testimony of God’s grace — it's my release,”
Amber Pickens is a graduate of The Juilliard School with a BFA in Dance. At the early age of two, her mom put this southern belle in ballet and acting because she always was moving around. But while Amber favored acting and had big dreams of being a movie star, it was during the summer of her fourth grade year when she attended The Debbie Allen Dance Academy Intensive at Texas Christian University that things shifted. That summer she fell in love and made her commitment to dance. Having realized that dance was not only a talent — but also her gift — it also brought much needed discipline and helped her better focus and realign her attitude. She saw how dance could open doors to many her many dreams i.e. Broadway, Film, Theater, and more.
With this newfound dedication to the arts, her appreciation for her craft blossomed even more. She became captivated with the history of ballet at W.E. Greiner middle school. Her dance teacher set pieces from Giselle and Swan Lake on the dancee class, and Amber was fascinated. She then was accepted to the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). There, Amber received the highest honor awarded to performing arts students in Texas. The Texas Commission of the Arts selected her as a Texas Young Master of the Arts, making her the first HSPVA freshman to be honored. She performed works by artists such as Robert Battle, Larry Keigwin, Dwight Rhoden, Kanji Segawa, Jessica Lang, Cherylyn Lavagnino, and Moussa Diabate. Throughout high school, Amber studied at the Dallas Theater Center, and played Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Over the summers, Amber attended the American Black Film Festival, Camp Broadway, The Alvin Ailey School, Tasha Smith Acting Bootcamp, The Martha Graham School.
During her junior year at the HSPVA, she finally had the opportunity to see a live performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and realized she had never seen black people perform in the way that Ailey dancers did. She was amazed by the dancers’ beauty, the many shades of brown, and all the people of color. She learned more about the history of Ailey and wanted to be a part of this legacy.
During her time at The Juilliard School, Amber performed works by artists such as Pina Bausch, Camille Brown, Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch, Jose Limon, Chase Brock, Monica Bill Barnes, Murray Louis, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Larry Keigwin. Amber is an advocate for community engagement in the arts and was part of the Juilliard PEPS (Performing Educational Programs for Schools), interactive dance performances for students in New York City middle and high schools.
Amber is a Dizzy Feet Foundation Award recipient. While attending Jacob’s Pillow contemporary intensive, she received the Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence. Amber received an exciting opportunity to be a part of French Vogue’s 14-page fashion photo shoot with infamous hip hop dancers, Les Twins photographed by Mario Sarrenti. You can also find her in Dior's New Looks table book. She graces eight pages in Redbook Magazine for new hot denim looks. She was titled as one of the top finalists for NBC Universal/ABFF's Star Project.
Amber gives ode to her grandmother’s philosophy that “art belongs to the people, give back!” Paying homage to her grandmother who was a missionary in many communities, Pickens developed a nonprofit organization, Art Belongs to People (ABtP), that introduces the fundamentals of ballet and modern dance to girls during the summer. Her program exposes the art form to those who would not otherwise be privileged to the arts. Amber believes it is her responsibility as an ambassador of the arts to give back to her community and many others. She started Art Belongs to People in May 2013 in Durban, South Africa teaching praise and modern dance for two weeks. She also taught modern dance at Kwa-Santi Secondary School for forty students ages 10-14 and praise dance to over a 100 church members ages 5-50 at Shalom church. From South Africa to the most underserved community in metro south Dallas, Pickens brought ABtP home to St. Philip's School and Community Center where she attended. ABtP is reminder that everything she does in dance can be used as inspiration for children everywhere.
Amber made her Broadway debut in Cirque du Soleil's Paramour! She loves sharing the history and wisdom from professionals in entertainment, so Amber launched her talk show, Kickback & Chat with Amber Pickens. The first episode took place at the Cadillac House in Soho, New York. Make sure to check out her interviews at kickbackchat.com and join her mailing list! She recently made her debut at the Muny Theater in The Wiz! The Wiz has always been one of Amber’s favorite musicals and she felt honored to give homage to the black legends that paved the way for many.
Amber Pickens definitely has a story to tell — her story — she sees dance an art form, its own language, a way of communicating. Even when surrounded with challenges, Amber does not see it as all negative, with conviction she states, "when a flower is blooming it doesn't look at the other flowers, it just blooms!"
Tune in tonight to see Amber as "Grace Pressley" on Law and Order: SVU "Dance, Lies, and Videotape."
March 26th at 10pET/9pCT
Visit her HAPPENINGS page for more information and tickets!