My name is Ashley Nevison, 14, from Arizona. I got to Russian Ballet Academy.
Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always loved to dance. I started taking dance classes when I was 2 1/2 years old, and after my first performance on stage, I was obsessed with dance. I started dance at a competitive jazz studio and joined the competition team when I was 3. I loved every single style and could not say which one was my favorite. I just loved performing on stage. When I turned 10 years old, I realized that I loved ballet more than any other style. At the end of that dance season, I switched dance studios to focus solely on ballet. Ever since switching to just ballet, I have fallen more and more in love with ballet and am super glad I switched to follow my heart.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Things have not always been easy. I have struggled with body image issues. It's hard when you are told at 11 that you don't have a traditional ballerina body. I just keep focusing on what I love to do and focusing on my technique. I hope when I am old enough to audition for companies that they see my passion and drive for dance.
One thing for me that has always been easy is having a motivation and passion for dance. Whether it was when I was younger doing all different styles of dance, or now just focusing on ballet, I have always found stuff to be motivated by. When I first focused on just ballet, I really wanted to have strong enough ankles for pointe. So I practiced every exercise I was given and got strong enough ankles to be put on pointe. Now, my goal is to be able to do more fouettes than I currently do, so I am still working on those same exercises I was given almost 3 years ago. I have never lost my motivation to dance, and I never think I will.
What personal limitations if any did you go through in your young career?
For me, having scoliosis and not being naturally flexible have been my personal limitations. I have to make sure that I am always stretching and am always strengthening my back. Sometimes my back hurts, and I have to stop and do the stretches I was taught by Beckanne Sisk at a summer intensive years ago. I also attend Pilates to work on strengthening my muscles.
Has anybody ever tried to limit you on what you could do? If so how did you fight it?
Yes actually, I was severely bullied at dance when I was younger and I lost all motivation and self-esteem to dance. At the time I honestly thought that I didn't deserve to be at dance and didn't want to be seen. Due to that, I lost all my confidence to try my best at certain times and I would try to hide in the back corner of every class so that no one would see me. I tried so hard to get the confidence back that I lost from the bullying. Fortunately, competing in pageants and attending counseling really helped me gain my confidence back. Although I no longer dance where I was bullied, my goal was always to show the bully that they did not have any power over me even if I didn't feel confident in what I was doing at the time. Now I am always giving 110% and always believing in myself so even if I encounter someone else who is bullying me I know that I don't have to lose my confidence that I worked so hard to gain back.
How do you conquer negative talk?
For me, negative talk is a huge thing that needs to stop. Since getting bullied at eight, it has been my number one thing whenever I see someone talking negatively about themselves or someone else, I always try and stop it. I always ask why they are talking negatively and remind them that everyone is beautiful. Everyone should be doing what they love and want to do without anyone judging them. For me, when I got bullied, I felt like I didn't deserve to be dancing, so I always try to promote positivity and inclusivity at dance and in the world.
What is your favorite quote?
"Working hard is important but there is something that matters even more; believing in yourself." -Harry Potter
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Nothing big planned for this year. I am just focusing on my training. I am excited to compete again next year. Non-dance-related, I have my new book releasing on Amazon this week, so big things are happening there. Hopefully, I will have some press interviews and readings scheduled soon.