We had the good fortune of connecting with Krista Barker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Krista, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
The single most important decision that led to the branding and success of AMP was realizing I needed to be the change I wanted to see in the industry. I wanted to make it more than just a competition and a bottom line. As a teacher and choreographer myself, I’ve had students reach out to me feeling defeated. Competitions are so often only about “who’s beating who” and “who is the best” that young students often lose their love for dance. They get caught up in winning the “trophy” that they forget why they dance in the first place. I wanted to find a way for these dancers to uplift one another and use artistry to give back to the community. Once I discovered a way to incorporate competitive elements with the ability to still lift each other up and give to the community, that has been the single most important contribution to my success.
I made the decision to create AMP Dance Competition as an outlet for dancers to use their artistry for more than just “trophies and awards” but for culture and community. I wanted to develop a relationship with like-minded studios, to create loyalty and trust; an event all dancers could feel valued at, inspired by, and realize their performances year after year, make a huge difference in someone’s life other than their own.
Dance is about personal expression and having the opportunity to be vulnerable, and use that artistry to impact others. AMP was created to give dancers an outlet to use their artistry to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Being a part of AMP, means being a part of giving back to the community and “Paying it Forward”. That is why every dancer who attends AMP is given a token to meet and recognize other dancers from other studios as a way to build community in a positive way. A portion of registration from every studio who attends, goes towards a children’s charity, making every performance have an impact not only on stage but beyond the stage.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been dancing since I was 4 years old, and I fell in love with it at the age of 7 when I started to compete and take the stage regularly. I grew up thinking that unless you were Beyonce’ or a famous choreographer for the stars, there was no true career or future in dance. I dabbled in other career fields far from the arts–I even thought I was going to be an eye surgeon, but my heart was with dance. I continued my journey by working briefly in L.A., then branched into teaching and choreography. I created a performance company for young adults ages 16 and up, just to provide an outlet for dancers in Arizona, like myself, to still perform. I was able to continue to grow in my career and become a master teacher, and have the privilege of sharing my love and my craft with dancers across the country. Still to this day, I teach, choreograph and perform in stage shows.
As I continued to get older, I wanted to create something in the dance world I could be proud of once my body no longer could handle the physical demand of dancing. Growing up as a “competition kid” myself, I knew I had the education and the drive to create AMP — a competition with traditional components that also served as something bigger for the community. It was very hard, still hard, branching into a field that is very saturated with great competitions. Studios have set competitions they have attended for years, and my biggest challenge has been getting studios to try something new. I tackle that challenge slowly year by year by staying true to my brand ALWAYS. I think working closely with studio owners and their students has really helped shaped my business. I am always taking note of what is missing, what is sought after, what is important for these kids, parents, teachers, and choreographers from a competition experience. I make sure kids are not missing school to attend AMP. I make sure we never schedule on important family holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even the Super Bowl. I make sure the kids always “Pay it forward” and acknowledge one another, and AMP will always give back to children’s charities and provide community support.
Simply put, I am most proud that I was able to take my passion for dance and turn it into my career. I am proud and honored to be that example for every student I teach, and most importantly for my own two children to look up to. The dance world is constantly changing, and staying current presents its challenges, but staying true to my “WHY” is something I am proud of and I hope inspires others to do the same.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend were to visit me, I fear a week wouldn’t be enough time to show her this great region. I would definitely spread out the agenda and focus on hitting specific and essential areas of the city each day, to best understand our great state.
I would explore the Peoria/Glendale area first, as that is home to me after all. We would hit Sicilian Butcher at Park West for lunch, because that is my favorite Restaurant, and then mosey on down to West gate for their great bars and a view of the great football and hockey arenas.
One of the most special things about the greater Phoenix area is the time of MLB Spring Training. Unlike in Florida, spring training in Arizona is the most efficient way to view multiple major league baseball teams in a short period of time. The Phoenix area has scattered spring training stadiums across the valley that are close enough to allow visitors to see multiple teams in one day; as well as view multiple games and stadiums within a few days. Most stadiums are within 20-30 minutes of each other. There is no other experience like it if you are a baseball fan, which I am–Go A’s!!!
We might start another morning off with a hike as there are beautiful mini mountains everywhere, and we have beautiful weather 8 months out of the year. Camelback Mountain and Thunderbird mountain are my favorites. Then later that day we would explore Downtown Phoenix, eat at Culinary Dropout, enjoy a sangria and see Chase Field and the Suns Arena.
Once Friday rolled around I would have to take my best friend to Scottsdale. You can’t visit Arizona without an evening in Scottsdale. The nightlife is unreal and the food is incredible. My favorite restaurant in Scottsdale is Spiga Cucina Italiana–great indoor and outdoor dining.
Regardless of the distance, there is no question, I would have to take my friend up north on the I-17 to see Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. This is where we would finish our weekend and spend the rest of our time visiting. Our plans would arrive us in Sedona to view the vast area of red rock and quiet restaurants. Even though we could spend the entire weekend here, after a day of hiking, shopping and eating in Sedona, we would continue on up north through Flagstaff to show her how amazing our great state is. There are very few states where you are able to change climates and geographic terrain within a few hours like Arizona. Early Sunday, we would make our way to the Grand Canyon. I have been to the canyon many times and each time I visit, it still blows my mind. It is one of the greatest visuals I have ever seen and makes me feel at peace–a great way to finish the week long trip.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A big shout out to my business partners, Kevin & Meri Bender. They own Bender Performing Arts as well — a dance studio here in the valley. Though I grew up at a different studio, I have grown up admiring them. Arizona has a tremendously talented dance scene, and they are not only a part of the talent but they have always been able to put their culture first to drive their extremely successful business. I always knew of them as a child, but I first met them when I was 17. I performed for them in one of their non-profit charity shows at The Orphem called Dancin’spiration. This one experience almost 20 years ago, largely inspired how I feel about dance and using my gift for others. I still perform in this show annually today. These two have invested in my dreams in all ways possible. I thank them for their trust and investment in my vision, the sharing of their network all across the country, their experience, and their equal love of dance and the performing arts. It was amazing for me to go from a child looking up to them, to an adult working with them.
Another big shout out to my family. My parents, my kids and my partner Richard, are my #1 fans, and they NEVER let me quit. They inspire me, push me and support me to be the best version of myself in all aspects of life. The values that are at the core of AMP, are values my parents have instilled in me my whole life — be a kind person and use your gifts to influence others.
Another shout out to my team, my AMP family. They are an integral part of the AMP culture and I could not do this without them. They’ve been there from the beginning, and are a huge part of the growth and success AMP has seen.
Other: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cassi Lee Acevedo Ryan Horrall