Amy Maze inspires local children through her love of dance
There are those who are so blessed, they discover their calling at a tender age. For Amy Maze, that was abundantly true.
“By the time I was 5 years old, I was always getting out my energy," Maze said. "Whether I had music playing or not, I was dancing in the kitchen, making up my own movements. I loved to perform and entertain anybody who came over the house. I was a complete hambone. So my folks enrolled me in Candy Brook’s Dance Studio, a little ways from Mebane, and I just loved it.
"I’ll never forget my first recital," she continued. "During a ballet number, one person was supposed to go down on one knee while the other one went around them. My partner forgot to go down on one knee so I kept tapping on her shoulder and pointing down.”
In her current work with children, she stresses that very spirit of the moment. There is no concern over right and wrong, no striving for perfection. It’s all about the joy of movement.
Needless to say, as a 5-year-old girl living in the Piedmont, she had many adventures ahead of her before she established her current approach at the Black Mountain Center of the Arts, where she teaches contemporary dance classes to children of all ages. However, while taking her first lessons, she did learn that she would have to do things correctly if she was ever going to be a performing professional.
“I found tap dancing very difficult because it was so precise," Maze said. "It was like there was a mathematical equation to it with all those shuffles and brushes. I stuck with it though and keyed on ballet through high school and college because I knew it was foundational. And when I was out there during a performance under the lights with a live audience, it was a big turn-on. But I discovered my heart was really with modern dance.”
Her high school instructor introduced her to this more open emotional form which providing her with a new objective: to get the audience to feel. As a result, she was recommended for the North Carolina summer Governor’s School Arts Program because of this true passion, enabling her to go on with her pursuit and even set her own choreography.
“At that point everything opened up for me. We got to work with the theater kids and create a gorilla piece," Maze said."It was so cool. We had this huge piece of cloth spread out and we dancers explored everything we could do squirting ketchup and mustard, creating this abstract piece of art on the fabric. At the same time, we learned all about production, setting up all the facets of our show including lighting and costumes.”
From there her horizons and possibilities expanded even further through a program in Hillsborough, auditioning for and studying at the North Carolina School of the Arts, and on to studies in all aspects and outlets of dance at UNC Greensboro.
“At the School of the Arts I realized I always had to work really hard on my technique and I was never the best," Maze said. "If this performance thing didn’t work out, I’d have to seek out a wider range of experiences at Greensboro. Learn every avenue of the business, become a teacher and maybe have my own studio, and do something good in this world.”
Along the way, she did perform at Walt Disney World, Horn in the West in Boone, and with a modern dance company called Soul Play in Orlando. Getting homesick, she returned to this region teaching dance at a studio in South Asheville but eventually deeply missed being part of a community.
“Black Mountain reminded me a lot of my friendly little hometown of Mebane and I envisioned finally offering my own non-competitive, affordable dance experience for kids," she said. "It helps instill confidence as they become more outgoing, performing all over town and having the time of their lives.”
Coming full circle, if you happen to peek in on one Maze's classes filled with young dancers, you can’t help notice the blossoming spirit that will carry every one of them through.