The lights bore down on the stage as the music thumped happily along and Mother Ginger and the younglings twirled and pranced around the stage. The director of this rendition of “The Nutcracker” chose one shy, rosey-cheeked little girl to play the part of the child who would grinningly refuse to return to Mother Ginger’s skirt. All throughout rehearsals, the girl was too timid to carry out her part. When it came time for the real performance and Mother Ginger called all the children back to her skirt, a smile finally spread wide across the little girl’s face as she confidently danced the part for the first time.
That little girl, none other than our very own dance and English teacher Amy Moorhead, has been dancing for as long as she can remember.
When Moorhead was a little girl attending Wildwood Elementary, a school counselor asked her if she wanted to be a dancer when she grew up.
“What do you mean?” Moorhead had said. “I already am a dancer.”
Moorehead’s background in dance includes classical ballet, jazz, contemporary and musical theater. She received very strict classical training starting in the ninth grade at San Francisco Dance School, practicing four hours a day, six days a week.
While teaching at PHS, Moorhead was a dancer in the production of “Phantom of the Opera” in San Francisco. The show ran for five years. For three of those years, Moorhead performed in eight shows a week. At the time she first auditioned, Moorhead was also raising her four month-old son and was out of practice.
Moorhead made the first cut for the auditions but not the second. She was disappointed but decided the key was to get back into the groove and start practicing to try again for the next auditions six months later. Her hard work payed off when they hired her as a ballerina and as the “cover,” or understudy, of the part of Meg. By this time, she was already teaching dance at PHS.
“I did have a lot on my plate,” Moorehead said. “I was doing eight shows a week, I was teaching at the high school and I was raising a two year-old.”
Currently, Moorhead no longer dances, but teaches in two departments at PHS in addition to directing the musical.
Initially, Moorhead only taught dance although she majored in English at the University of California Berkeley. Moorehead has been teaching for 22 years at PHS. She said that the previous dance teacher’s departure left the dance program at PHS non-existent and she wanted to build it back up.
“That was my initial goal in coming here,” Moorhead said.“I wanted to build the dance program back up because it had just gone away completely.”
At first, she formed a small extracurricular dance group. It took several years for Moorehead to get the dance program running and to establish dance P.E. and dance performing arts credits.
Dancer senior Princeton Liu said that Moorhead’s extensive background in performing is evident because she not only teaches about dance, but also about pursuing performing arts in general.
“She gives us extra knowledge about what it’s like in the performing arts business, which is crucial for dancers such as myself,” Liu said.
Although Moorhead no longer performs, she sees herself as both a teacher and a dancer.
“I haven’t performed in a very long time and I miss it; I miss it a lot,” Moorhead said.
When Moorhead was at San Francisco Ballet School, she danced the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker.” Moorhead said she recalls the joy she felt performing on stage.
“I felt this sense of power and confidence on stage,” Moorhead said. “I loved being able to try and create an experience for the audience and make something feel real. For me, it was almost like an out of body experience.”
Moorhead said that she also loves directing and teaching because it is very fulfilling, but in a different way.
“I try to be an example to others about how you can be passionate about multiple things and you don’t have to kept in a little box,” Moorhead said.
She said that many people are good at and enjoy multiple things whether it be sports, academics, performing arts or anything else. She said that she wants to encourage students to do what they enjoy, even if their passions don’t correlate.
“A lot of times people ask me how dance and English have anything to do with each other,” Moorhead said. “In my mind, they are both modes of expression and I love them both.”
One of Moorhead’s favorite aspects of teaching is watching students develop confidence in their abilities. In this way, she sees kids change the way they view themselves and how performing arts can play a role in their lives.
“It’s fun to be on the other side of the table,” Moorhead said. “It’s fun to play the role of a director and a teacher because it’s great to see kids grow and stretch themselves out of their comfort zones.”
Dance student junior Lian Call said that Moorhead is always full of energy and excitment because she is so passionate about teaching dance and somehow finds a way to interact with everyone while still making it fun.
“You can tell when she dances, as well as teaches,” Call said. “She doesn’t just teach it; she wants to have fun while helping us learn how grande jeté.”