Ashley Bouder is a principal dancer of New York City Ballet. I ADORE her. If you have seen Ashley Bouder perform, you know what I mean: she takes your breath away. She's poetry on two legs.
Beside seeing her perform at Lincoln Center many times, I had the luck to meet Ashley and take some portraits and headshots that you can see here. I also had the chance to chat a bit with her and I want to share our conversation as I think she is an inspiring woman. So delicate yet so strong. So subtle yet so unmistakably noticeable.
I consider myself very fortunate. I ended up in New York by accident, not by plan. Most people I meet in the city, planned their whole life in order to come here. They really wanted to be part of the city. They made efforts, they pushed hard. I value that kind of drive in people above everything else. It's both ambition and commitment. It's following through. It's much more than just wishing and waiting. Many New Yorkers have that strength and that attitude. It's one of the many things that makes New Yorkers so fascinating to me.
Guess how Ashley Bouder ended up in New York? By really wanting it, of course!
"I knew that I wanted to be in New York City Ballet. And that meant going to the School of American Ballet. I made that my goal, auditioned and received a full ride to attend the school. I never once believed that it would not happen. I couldn't see another future for me."
In a way I'm not surprised by her answer. Ashley strikes me for her joyful, sweet presence, but I can sense the discipline underneath. I'm guessing that, like most successful people I've met, when she wants something she really goes all in. It takes commitment and energy. If you have seen her perform you know that she is made of pure energy like this beautiful city that I keep discovering and re-discovering.
Talking of New York, I had to ask her what is her favorite thing about the city?
My favorite thing about New York is that no matter what time zone you are mentally in, there is something to do. It makes coming home from travels a bit easier.
I find Ashley Bouder so strong and inspiring, not just for her dancing career but for her activism. Ashley and I met at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser at Studio 26 a few weeks back, because we are both committed to defend women and women's health. The ugly recent attacks need to be resisted and we all need to keep motivating and inspiring each other.
I had to ask her who were the women and men who inspired her.
"I'm a political science major in school, so some of the figures I look up to and am inspired by are in that realm. I am truly inspired by the Obamas and all they have done for equality and the less fortunate. I'm also a big Hillary Clinton fan. Just the achievements she has made are awe inspiring for any normal human. In the ballet world, Lourdes Lopez is an inspiration for girls and women, as an example of stepping up into and succeeding in roles usually filled by men."
I wanted to discover more about how she stays motivated. We can all learn and tweak when it comes to managing our motivation and being consistent in our goals. So I asked her what slows her down and what fuels her day.
"Negativity kills me. It permeates the atmosphere and gets me in a funk. For fuel I look for people or situations where the phrase "but what if" is used. I like to think about how things can be done differently, and how we can improve upon what already exists"
The city is so full of inspiring, creative artists of any kind. We discussed what photography and art mean for her.
"I've been photographed a lot. Photography for me captures moments in time. Whatever they may be. Happy, sad, boring, etc. I am an amateur photographer and I am so interested in expression. I love using a long range lens to capture faces when people don't really know that is the focus of the picture. And art....art is what you make it. It can be an experiment, a finished product, a show, or just for yourself. It is simply expression in whatever form that comes out"
You know what? I think Ashley is a work of art herself. And I'm not talking about the fact that she is beautiful - like in the headshot above. I think she's a work of art because she has an impact. Art, photography, creativity... for me it's all the same. It's about the message, it's about inspiring a thought, an awareness, a new way of understanding something. She does it, so powerfully. Yet so lightly.
Ashley Bouder was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and began her ballet training at the age of six at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet with Marcia Dale Weary. After attending the 1999 Summer Program at the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, she was invited by SAB to continue her training during the Winter Session. As a student, Ms. Bouder performed featured roles in Balanchine's Dances Concertantes and Stars and Stripes for the School of American Ballet's 2000 Annual Spring Workshop. Ms. Bouder was named an apprentice with New York City Ballet in June 2000 and became a member of the corps de ballet that October. She was promoted to the rank of soloist in February 2004, and in January 2005, Ms. Bouder was promoted to principal dancer.