By Nathalie Bonney @NathalieBonney
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Videographer / director: Colin Weatherby
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, Rooby Coote
Editor: Ciara Cecil
The most annoying thing that people can say to dancer Amanda LaCount is that she’s a good dancer…for her size.
The 18-year-old, originally from Colorado but now living in LA, has already danced with major recording artists and been able to travel the world. And yet her dancing ability is still questioned all the time, simply because of her size.
Amanda told Barcroft TV: “Why can't you just say I'm a good dancer, period? I don't get why they always have to have the ‘for your size’ or: ‘I was so in shock that you could dance.’ I'm like, Why? I don't get it, they always have this stereotype that people who are bigger or different can't dance like everybody else, and it really annoys me.”
Since she first stepped into a dance studio, at the age of two, Amanda has loved dancing. From ballet to tap, modern and hip-hop classes, by the age of 10 she was taking over 15 classes a week; Amanda had also decided she wanted to become a professional dancer.
Eight years later, Amanda has danced in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” music video, appeared on stage at the Radio Disney Music Awards with Meghan Trainor, and most recently was a backing dancer for Lizzo at Coachella.
She is an ambassador for Zumba, has been on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine and even appeared on The Ellen Show. But as a plus-size dancer Amanda has had to get used to her dance ability being questioned at every step of her career.
Amanda said: “People definitely questioned it along the way. I have had dance teachers, parents of dancers I danced with - everyone pretty much has questioned my abilities and my decision to be a professional dancer. Everyone has done it.
“I have always been this size, it's not like I was really skinny and then all of a sudden, I ate 100 donuts, and then I became this size. I was like this since I was four years old and so I have never known what it was like not to have people question me - so it's kind of just part of my life.
“I'm a pretty healthy eater. I don't go around eating fast food every day, and soda and ice cream.”
Watching her elder sisters dance from behind the dance studio window, Amanda was desperate to join her them – even though she was only two years old.
So eager in fact, mum Jill admits she had to pretend her daughter was three to get Amanda into her first recital.
Jill told Barcroft TV: “She went out onto the stage; moved everybody else to their correct ‘X’ and then she proceeded to do the entire dance - she knew it all. I knew right then that’s where she belonged.”
Another time Jill remembers a parent commenting on Amanda’s star ability, even preferring to watch Amanda over her own daughter.
Jill said: “When she was seven or eight she performed in a recital and a parent came running after us when we were taking all the costumes to the car and said, ‘Oh my God I could not take my eyes off your daughter, even when my daughter was on stage, I couldn’t take my eyes off your daughter.’
“I thought, ‘This is really weird, kind of scary weird’, and I talked to the studio director and she said: ‘Amanda has it.’ I said: ‘What do you mean she has it?’ And she said, ‘She has IT. You’ll see. She’s going to make it.”
But for every positive comment and bit of applause there were people, even teachers, who rejected Amanda because of her size.
She recalls the time a teacher – who had previously championed Amanda – dropped her purely because her size didn’t match his desired aesthetic:
She said: “One of my old dance teachers in Colorado asked to have a meeting with my mom and I.
“He said, ‘I'm sorry, but your body doesn't fit my vision I have for my team.’
“I was 10 years old. That always baffles me. He said nothing about my dancing.”
Rather than let this episode – or other similar experiences – damage her confidence, Amanda has strived to be the best she can be. Her family even relocated from Colorado to LA because it would be better for her dance career.
She said: “I am the type of person who's like, Oh, you tell me I can't do it? Well, I'm going to do it now, definitely 100 percent. But it's weird because I have kind of never felt what it's like to be respected.
“I am not like the stereotypical LA pretty girl you can say. And so it was hard and I didn’t get a lot of jobs because of the way I look. People would laugh at me when I came to auditions.
“I would definitely say that when I go to auditions, it's either just me or there's one other bigger person And it's a little frustrating and I feel a little vulnerable whenever I go to auditions, just because I'm the only one that looks like me there so I literally stick out like a sore thumb. But it's also a positive thing because I then stand out from the crowd.”
Standing out for all the right reasons, Amanda doesn’t just dance to get attention; she does it because it’s her passion.
Amanda said: “I love dancing so much because I kind of turn into a different person. I am 1,000 times more confident than I am in my daily life. I feel like I'm untouchable; no one can say anything to me, and I'm just flawless and perfect, even though obviously I’m not. But I feel that way whenever I'm dancing.”