Carlynton graduate performing in Duquesne University show
Amanda Huddart always felt drawn to dance.
The 2012 Carlynton School District graduate began dancing at 2 years old and began to compete at 7.
As a three-year captain of the Carlynton drill team, she choreographed dances for the team's halftime show. She even appeared in Carlynton's musicals as a featured dancer.
But when she moved on to study biology and enroll in the pre-med program at Duquesne University, she decided to give it all up.
“It was a big decision not to do anything like that when I had left my studio in high school because I'd been so connected with it,” said Huddart, 18, of Carnegie.
“It's been a huge part of my life. But I decided that I definitely needed to broaden my horizons, try new things and go to school for my academics.”
That proved to be more difficult than she thought, as she struggled meeting new people at the bigger university and even considered transferring.
Then she found out about Duquesne's Exhalations Dance Theatre. Since her September tryout and admittance into the club, Huddart's college experience improved.
“What a great program,” said Beth Huddart, Amanda's mother. “Had this one girl not started this dance company all these years ago, I don't think my daughter would still be there at school.
“She probably would have been a transfer at Christmastime, and I probably would have been crying because I would have lost about $10,000.”
Exhalations groups dancers into four skill levels: Beginner, intermediate, advanced and company. Huddart qualified for the company, the highest skill level.
The organization will present its second show of the year, “The Choreography Project,” at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 and 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at the New Hazlett Theatre on the North Side. Performances will be by the company group only.
“We have numerous dances that the other girls have choreographed that we're going to be performing,” Huddart said.
While Exhalations performs mostly contemporary dance styles, Huddart specializes in tap. She won local and national titles in tap dancing while a member of Bridgeville-based Legacy of Dance.
In high school, she also appeared as a featured dancer in three Carlynton musicals — “My Favorite Year,” “The Wedding Singer” and “42nd Street.” She lettered in cheerleading for four years and spent five years as a member of the Cougarettes drill and dance team, the last three as captain.
The dual roles of cheerleader and dance team member meant Huddart often would cheer for two quarters at football games, perform with the band at halftime and then cheer again for the final two quarters. But that busy schedule prepared her for college life.
“I'm definitely a schedule-oriented person,” she said. “I go to class and come back and do homework, study whatever I have to do and go to dance after that. It's definitely a little bit busy, but I always find time to get my academics taken care of first and foremost.”
Before she joined Exhalations, Huddart felt out of place at Duquesne. Beth Huddart said she and her daughter drove through the campus at Chatham a couple of times because Amanda wanted to transfer.
Amanda Huddart is glad she found a reason to stick around.
“It was definitely a life-saver,” Huddart said of Exhalations. “It helped me make a lot of decisions about staying at school.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.