Ballet Dancer Amber Ray Already Boasts an International Pedigree

Five, six, seven, eight …

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  • Written & photographed by
    Kat Monk

A career in ballet is not for the masses or the faint of heart. It is demanding, intensive and all-consuming. Just like pursuing an elite sport, if you are really passionate about dance, it will become your entire life.

Amber Ray was only 2½ years old when she started her first ballet class. At age 12, alongside with her mother, Jackie, she attended a spring recital at Pepperdine University to watch the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet. Yuri Grigoriev was a graduate of the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and a principal dancer with the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet before opening his ballet school in Culver City in the mid-’90s.

“Yuri found Amber full of potential and with all the attributes needed for a professional career in dance. However, she lacked solid training,” remembers Alexandra, Yuri’s wife. “He told her that he would have to completely retrain her and proceeded to put her in his top advanced-level class so he could watch her and guide her on a fast track.”

A year later during a weekly private lesson, Yuri announced that Amber would compete at Youth America Grand Prix, the most prestigious student ballet competition in the world. “We were all shocked and somewhat dubious considering the short training time,” shares Alexandra. “She showed such dedication, desire and willingness to do whatever Yuri thought necessary to propel her to the next level.”

Yuri encouraged her to choose the John Cranko School of Ballet, also known as the Stuttgart Ballet, so she could continue her Russian training. During that time she competed at the world-renowned Prix de Lausanne ballet competition in Switzerland and received a first-place trainee scholarship award at the 2014 Bolshoi Ballet summer intensive in New York with an opportunity to train and perform at Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy. After two weeks of training in Moscow, Amber danced in their Spring Gala.

After Amber’s time with the Stuttgart Ballet, she decided she was ready for a change and she auditioned for one of the world’s foremost ballet companies: the Dutch National Ballet (DNB). The DNB develops, produces and presents ballet at the highest international level. After being accepted, Amber moved from Stuttgart to Amsterdam.

“It was amazing to watch her in Yuri’s hands and to witness the speed with which she absorbed his teaching,” shares Alexandra.

In early 2015, Yuri passed away. “He had trained and coached Amber every step of the way for four years,” Alexandra shares, “and was so proud of her and all that she had accomplished.”