Ashlee Crowe, finalist in the 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
Ashlee Crowe, 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship finalist, spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod about her biggest inspirations, her favourite performers to watch and what she hopes to achieve in the future. She also revealed the inspiration behind her Classical Variation and Free Variation choices.
What inspired your passion for ballet?
When I was little I remember my teacher always taking us to watch the ‘big girls’ take class through the studio window and I always would think to myself … “that’s what I want to do someday!” I also think the encouragement of my teachers was inspiring and gave me that feeling of being part of something special. The first time I remember that I was truly motivated was when I was 7 years of age and danced in The Nutcracker for the first time at Hamer Hall with a full orchestra. I was so nervous and overwhelmed but as soon as I got on stage I had a realisation that this was what I wanted to do! Looking back now I still have the fondest memories and I drew a lot of my inspiration in my younger years from that performance and the wish to get back onstage again.
Who inspired you to start dancing?
When I was little I always asked my grandma to put on a tape of the live performance of Riverdance (Irish dance) whenever I went over to her house. I would dance in the lounge room for hours and hours watching and trying to do the dance moves. That was when I first taught myself to dance! If I looked at that tape again I am sure I would remember every bit just as clearly, I really did love it! After a while, mum decided to put me into ballet classes at the age of 4 in a local dance school. At that school, I instantly fell in love with ballet, so mum decided to move me to a more advanced studio where I could build on my skills. That is how I first came to the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet and have been their ever since.
You chose to perform Kitri Act 2 Dulcinea solo in the Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship Final, tell us a little bit about this piece.
The Dulcinea solo is a beautiful variation with a dream like quality and atmosphere. It comes from the second act of Don Quixote and the variation is set in the dreams Don Quixote himself. I am doing this solo to not only show my strengths but also challenge myself as it is very difficult, but I like a challenge! I enjoy dancing to the music which is very playful yet soft and sophisticated. I think that this solo is also very fun to dance as it has so many layers of dynamics and it has a very majestic quality to it.
Tell us a little bit about the free variation you also performed.
The free variation I performed is called Velocity. This solo is fast paced and full of energy. For me when I perform this solo I think that I am a creature that is being pushed and pulled through space in ways my body can’t control. This solo includes some animal like movements which make it look mysterious and deadly. I love doing this solo as it is so much fun to put on a character that is so dramatic and dangerous
Which other performers do you most like to watch, and why?
There are so many people I look up to in the ballet world and I think there are so many amazing dancers, but here is my top favorites. I love watching Marianela Núñez perform, as she is the epitome of technique and strength. She is so strong yet so graceful and the way she puts herself into the role is often breathtaking. Another is Sylvie Guillem, I remember watching a video of her perform ‘Manon’ with Jonathan Cope and it brought me to tears as the performance was just so moving! I also love Nataila Osipova, she has the most amazing versatility and jump. When she takes off from the floor it looks like she is flying. One of my favorite performances of hers was Giselle with Carlos Acosta. I loved watching while she just glided across the stage. I also love the Royal Ballet principle Sarah Lamb. She has such grace and presence on stage yet her technique is so solid and strong. I loved watching her in Romeo and Juliet and Sleeping Beauty as Aroura. And finally, I have to put Akane Takada in my favorites list. She is such a beautiful and technically sound dancer. I was lucky enough to see her dance live and receive coaching from her and she is so inspirational. She always makes everything look so effortless and her ability to act and move an audience is incredible.
What is the best piece of performance advice you've ever heard?
I know it sounds cheesy, but the best performance advice I have heard is to enjoy yourself on stage when you dance! My teachers always tell me that it shows when you are having fun and it makes it more enjoyable as an audience to watch someone who loves what they are doing. I find that telling myself to just have fun and go for it helps calm my nerves and keeps my head from overthinking just before I go on. I remember that all the steps are in my body and I just need to show them and perform. This piece of advice has helped me with every stage performance I have done while training as a ballet dancer.
What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?
Through my Sydney Eisteddfod experience I have learnt that if you believe in yourself and put everything out in the open anything is possible. I didn’t expect to come this far in my journey to the finals but I pushed myself and showed all the hard work that I had put into preparation, and it payed off. I have learnt that the only way to achieve things is to put yourself out there and go for it!