Oct 22, 2017
Freedom of Movement
Dreyfoos senior Mikalla Ashmore began competitive gymnastics at a young age, but it was at age 10 when she realized the part she liked best was the choreographed floor exercises. She quit gymnastics and started her training in dance. “After stopping gymnastics and starting dancing, I went to see the Alvin Ailey dance company and the Dance Theatre of Harlem both perform at the Kravis Center. I knew after watching those dancers that I wanted to dance like them. They possessed so much strength, grace, passion, and artistry that I could feel the pure love they had for moving through space and performing. Whenever I get in my head or too wrapped up in the technique of dance, I try to remind myself of those dancers and those performances. I try to remember that I started dance because of the release I found in the freedom of movement.”
That inspiration has now come full circle, as Mikalla has spent the past two summers training at The Ailey School’s Summer Intensive. This past summer, the Foundation awarded Mikalla the Gail Galli Artistic Merit Scholarship to help her attend.
“I tried to expand my knowledge of dance as much as I could. The electives I choose to take alongside the required ballet and modern courses were a Paul Taylor Technique class and a West African Workshop class. Besides growing in those techniques, my teachers this summer were very much concentrated on artistry and dynamics. So I learned a lot about what makes the difference between a technically sound student and a professional who combines their technique with artistry, dynamics, performance, and a certain quality of intention behind their movements. Even when I take class now, I can hear in the back of my head one of my teachers, Mr. Asca, who taught Horton modern screaming across the class room “Make it exciting ... use your levels ... make everything bigger ... engage your faces!” The intensive at Ailey definitely helped me break out of the comfort of my movement, helping me break out of my shell that I sometime retreat into when I forget what dance and movement is about. Being at Ailey reminded me of how liberating dance should be.”
Previously, Mikalla also participated in a three week intensive at Next Generation Ballet in Tampa, and a local summer intensive at Southern Dance Theatre. Outside of Dreyfoos, she dances at the Florida School of Dance Education (FSDE) in Palm Beach Gardens and is a part of FSDE’s dance company, Dance Theater of Florida.
This year at Dreyfoos, Mikalla will be portraying the role of Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty”, and was also cast in George Balanchine’s “Serenade”, a piece by Alvin Ailey company member Solomon Dumas, and as a soloist in a piece by the Guest Artist Troy Powell, the Artistic Director of Ailey II.
“For me, because my dream is to be in the Ailey II company, being chosen by Troy Powell is an incredible opportunity. Having the chance to work with him not only helps me build a relationship with him, but it prepares me to be able to move, pick up choreography, and perform the way companies such as Ailey II, Complexions Ballet, Ballet X, and many other professional dance companies expect their dancers to. It also gave me confidence, proving that the work I’ve put into my dancing will pay off eventually if I keep up the growth.”
Attending Dreyfoos has afforded Mikalla the opportunity to work with guest choreographers renowned in the dance world. Thanks to a grant from the Hearst Foundation, the School of the Arts Foundation is able to provide around 30 Guest Artists per year to Dreyfoos. “These artists who come to set pieces with us are currently working, creating, and directing in the dance world. Being able to work with people such as Mr. Powell, Mr. Dumas, and Ms. Borne offers us the chance to make connections and a reputation in the dance community.”
“Dreyfoos is different than most schools. Along with the high quality academics, every day I come to school to improve on my art form. As a senior, I can say with confidence, that without Dreyfoos, I would not have had the opportunities, training, or experience in dance that I have been offered because of this school. The guest artists that are brought in, the amount of care and individual attention from the dance faculty, and the performance opportunities are just a few of the things that Dreyfoos offers that my home school definitly would not. Also, the artistic environment that is produced by the creative aspects of all the majors combined makes for such an open and fun atmosphere that could not be recreated at a regular high school. Dreyfoos means having the best start I can for a career in the real world, either in the art field or in the work force.”
When Mikalla is not at school, or spending hours in rehearsals, she finds time to bake or exercise at the gym. “Academically, I am very interested in the relationship between science and movement. Since I was young, I loved watching the show on ESPN called “Sports Science”. I have become interested in physical therapy and the process of how medicine interacts with athletes, specifically dancers. Last year I took Anatomy and Physiology in school, which only increased my interests in this subject.”
Mikalla hopes to attend Fordham University in New York City at the Lincoln Center campus, which has a partnership with The Alvin Ailey School. She wants to major in dance, with a minor in science or biology. “After dancing for as long as my body allows, I plan to go back to school to pursue a career in a sports medicine field such as a sports chiropractics or physical therapy. Being able to help dancers and athletes recover from injuries is one of the most fulfilling careers I can see myself in, besides dancing in front of audiences as a performer.”