No one really just falls into a professional career as a dancer. There is always a story, an ‘aha’ moment, or an influence that helps set the path.
We have a few new dancers with Common Thread Contemporary Dance company. One such dancer is Ashley McQueen.
Ashley is a dancer of incredible technical abilities, consistently strong and clean. She is versatile in every sense of movement; she can be grounded and quick in contemporary floorwork and suddenly transform into lithe lightness in classical forms. She in an incredibly smart dancer; quick to grasp timing and use musicality to make each combination more exciting and full. She makes stunning shapes, which of course has inspired more than a few doodles in my sketchbook. And she’s a kind and hilarious person on top of it all.Here’s a little of her story:
Quickly walk me through your dance journey education, experience, that has landed you where you are now?
I started dancing with the Alabama Dance Theatre in Montgomery under Kitty Seale and Foye DuBose. ADT provided me with top notch training and many wonderful opportunities (including meeting the wonderful Jen Medina at a SERBA Festival in 2009). My teachers pushed us to audition for summer intensives, and I was blessed to attend programs such as American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, and Alabama Ballet. I trained at Birmingham-Southern College for two years before the program was cut due to an “oops” in the financial department. Jennifer Medina and I kept in touch, and she guided me to Webster University, where I changed from a BA program to BFA in 2 years and graduated on time.
What is your first memory of seeing dance/ falling in love with dance/ dancing? Are they one and the same? What made you begin?
I’ll never forget, I attended a production of “Sleeping Beauty” performed by ADT. It was my first year living in Montgomery, so I didn’t audition for any children’s parts. I remember sitting in the audience in complete awe of the beautiful Kate Robertson (always an idol of mine growing up!). I knew then I wanted to be on stage and never in the audience… I couldn’t keep still!
Tell me about your decision to dance with Common Thread? why is it a good fit (if it is)?
I knew the minute I met Jennifer Medina I wanted to work with her. I attended her first Common Thread summer intensive for two weeks before the company had even been officially established. I kept in touch, and waited patiently to earn my degree and join the company. Even after five years my opinion and career goal never changed. I am where I am supposed to be right now, and have never been happier with myself or my dancing. This company is more than just a group of dancers, it’s my new family. Plus, the company classes and repertoire are FIERCE.
What are a few goals or hopes that you have for your future career? How does that tie in with the current community, travel, transitions, etc?
My goals include: contribute to the growth process of Common Thread; Expand my choreographic opportunities; Perhaps in a few years return to Thailand to work with Pichet Klunchun (my teacher from this past summer who has his own touring company); One day have my own company with my own rep (My friends and I joke about the name… “Smashco” 😉 )
Hopes: Fully understand myself and gain confidence in my new professional life.
Describe life as a dancer- What are the biggest blessings, challenges in daily life?
Blessings: the ability to turn the beauty and/or struggle of everyday life into something beautiful. Expressing emotions through dance has been the only way I’ve made to 22.
If you weren’t a dancer, how do you think you would be different, as a person?
I have no idea who I would be without dance…
What relaxes you?
Sex and the City.
Who has helped pave the way for you- mentors, teachers, friends, historical figures?
So so many people… To narrow it down, I would have to say Foye DuBose (my high school ballet teacher) for never giving up on me and having faith in me. I wouldn’t have the technique I do now if it weren’t for him and his “drill sergeant”-like classes. Jennifer Medina for being a spiritual guide, friend, and kick ass teacher. She brought me here and created so many beautiful opportunities for me. I am forever grateful.
What is coming up for you in the near future?
Other than Common Thread shows, I’ve got a few projects coming up: I’m choreographing and directing my own show through Annonyarts at Satori in April (3-5, 18-19), setting a work on Arova Contemporary Ballet in February, and choreographing a dance on film for Dre Conception (a senior at Webster University).
Favorite theater you’ve performed in, costume you’ve worn, dance flick
Favorite Theater: The Touhill Costume: Senior BFA solo… Rainbow tutu with no tights and no shoes. All the beauty of a ballerina without the pain! Dance Flick: Center Stage, duh.
Thanks to Ashley, a wonderful dancer and friend- for the inspiration in dance and art, for sharing your story. I’ll expect a private audition for ‘Smashco’ when it is started.