Former Chicago Luvabull dances her way through an ever-evolving career

Amelia Carpenter dancing at Free Mvmt Shop in Chicago. (Michaela Schirra/Medill Reports)

By Michaela Schirra
Medill Reports

Every day is different for Amelia Carpenter. From teaching fitness and dance classes to coaching a high school dance team, Carpenter has chosen to pursue her passion through varied paths.

Carpenter, 30, currently works as a professional dancer, coach and teacher in Chicago and will continue to host private dance intensive programs to inspire dancers.

After balancing multiple jobs in order to live her dream, Carpenter jumped into dance full time in September. While her dance journey continues to evolve, it began when she wanted to join her high school’s dance team.

Carpenter (front row, left) had her first experience on a dance team as a freshman in high school in Birmingham, Michigan. (Courtesy of Maple Motion Dance Team, Seaholm High School)

“I was immediately in love with being a part of a team and the competitive nature of it,” Carpenter said. “I loved the feeling of being on the stage with my teammates.”

Carpenter continued to pursue dance, moving to the varsity squad her sophomore year and researching colleges where she could continue to dance after high school. She eventually found Miami University in Ohio where she could dance and earn a degree in journalism. 

Carpenter and teammates on the 2008 Miami University Dance Team (back row, third from right). (Courtesy of Miami University Athletics)

After graduating from Miami University, Carpenter moved to Chicago for work and decided to try out for the Luvabulls, the Chicago Bulls dance team. After not making the team the second time she tried out, Carpenter said she was “devastated” and determined to improve her overall fitness before tryouts the following season. 

When her third audition came, Carpenter said she had only one thought: “I’m not walking out of here without a spot on this team.”

On the last day of the audition process, her determination paid off and she made the 2014-15 squad. “Enter four years of the most amazing and hardest years of my life,” said Carpenter in describing life as a Luvabull. 

Carpenter hyping up the crowd at a Bulls game. (Courtesy of Chicago Bulls)

She entertained the crowds and cheered on the Bulls at the United Center for four years before deciding that 2018 was going to be her last season as a Luvabull. Carpenter said that she felt that she’d gotten what she needed from being on the squad and that she wanted someone else to have the same experience. 

“It’s someone else’s spot and it’s their dream,” Carpenter said. “I would never be able to do something half-assed knowing that someone else would whole-ass and love it.”

Now that Carpenter has transitioned to dancing full time, she teaches classes at two Chicago studios, coaches a high school dance team and hosts her own intensive dance programs. As her career in dance progresses, she continues to inspire colleagues and dancers through her classes. 

Carpenter leading her intensive students for their January showcase at the Free Mvmt Shop in Lincoln Park. (Courtesy of Icon 3 Studios)

This January, Carpenter hosted an intensive dance clinic at the Free Mvmt Shop in Lincoln Park to help local dancers become the best performers possible. Dancer and attendee Anchisa Pipatpinyopong said that she enjoyed the program and has been inspired by Carpenter. 

“Anytime I go to her sessions, she’s always there, energetic and ready to go,” Pipatpinyopong said.

While Carpenter’s intensive sessions include long hours and hard work, she said she tries to keep her students encouraged, saying, “I try to remind people, ‘Hey, be proud you’re in this room, be proud for showing up.’”

Carpenter said that part of the formula for becoming a better dancer is asking people for help, whether that means critiquing technique or encouraging showmanship in performances. Carpenter said that she would often ask people for help, sending videos of her routines to colleagues and fellow dancers. While Carpenter did not have formal training from the time she could walk, as many dancers do, her constant desire to improve made her a better performer. 

“I think she breaks the mold because she has that same intensity and passion over a shorter period of time and was able to be so successful,” former teammate Kathryn Wiencek said. 

“Always say yes, even when you think you’re not ready,” Carpenter said. “Because you know you can get there.”

Photo at top: Amelia Carpenter dancing at the Free Mvmt Shop in Chicago. (Michaela Schirra/MEDILL)