Cupcakes & Conversation with Ashley Laracey, Soloist, New York City Ballet
What motivates you at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning?
The alarm rings at 8:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. A few minutes prior to the alarm, our automatic coffee pot begins brewing our favorite Whole Foods blend. The smell of coffee motivates me to get up, and once my coffee is in hand I am able to focus on the day’s tasks, rehearsals, and performance.
Ballet gives me the opportunity to create movement and art with my body and the potential to touch or inspire someone in the audience. Ballet provides me the intellectual stimulation and buzz of constantly learning new repertoire and the ability to emotionally express myself through performing. I love the physicality, the athleticism, the artistic freedom, and the idea that through discipline one can never stop improving, learning, or growing as an artist.
What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season?
Embarking on my first season as a soloist with the New York City Ballet, I am most excited about the uncertainty. Becoming a soloist was always a dream and I am thrilled to have accomplished this great feat. I’ve been lucky to learn some amazing roles like George Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Peter Martins’ The Infernal Machine, and I am looking forward to new opportunities and experiences.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
I would love to dance with [NYCB principal dancer] Jared Angle. He is such an amazing partner, friend, and dancer. The opportunity to dance with Jared in Peter Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto or in Balanchine’s Serenade, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Symphony in C, or Stravinsky Violin Concerto would be a dream come true. He has the ability to dance, partner and connect on an intimate level when he performs with his partners. I would love to experience this!
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
I would love to dance in the Versailles Gardens.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
First I select a pair of shoes. Fresh out of the packaging I place Hot Stuff glue in the tips of the pointe shoes. Then, with the pointe shoes flat on their shanks I step on the box to flatten it. Next, I turn the pointe shoes on their back and place my heel on the shank by the box, and pull up with my hand while I step on the heel to pop or release the inner nail. Then I separate the shank from the canvas by pulling the 2.5 inch wood shank away from the material. Lastly, I bend the shoe/shank into a banana like shape. Now my pointe shoes are ready to try on and decide which shoe is the Right and which is the Left. Once each side is designated, I sew my flexor ribbons and Freed mesh elastic onto the shoes.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
The Company recently went on tour to Washington D.C. and Copenhagen, so we were rehearsing Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in preparation. My days begin at 8:15 a.m. with coffee and a breakfast of an i5 protein shake; then I check emails and get ready for the day. By 9:45 a.m. I am on my way to the subway to go to work. Ballet class is from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., then rehearsals are from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. I prepare for the performance. The performance is from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Immediately following the performance I take a shower, then go home to eat dinner and ice or heat my muscles, take a bath, or use Traumeel and then go to bed.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Novak Djokovic, Daniel Boulud, Edouard Vuillard, Pina Bausch, George Balanchine, Adam Levine
What would surprise people about you?
Most people would think joining New York City Ballet was my first professional job, but that’s not true! I worked at a McDonald’s in Bradenton, Florida, the summer before coming to SAB [the official school of NYCB]. It was a wonderful experience. I loved working the drive-through!
Who inspired you to dance?
Seeing Diane Partington (my former teacher) dance Odette/Odile in Swan Lake when I was a student at the Sarasota Ballet inspired me to work hard and dream of one day becoming a professional ballerina.
What is your best piece of advice?
Never give up. Don’t get too deep inside your own head. Be critical but don’t beat yourself down. Have confidence and most importantly dance for yourself.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
I begin my regimen 2 hours before I go on stage. I take a shower to rinse off the day and feel fresh, and give my muscles a quick contrast of hot and cold water. I get dressed in my green Target sweatshirt (I love Target!) and Uniqlo navy blue warm-up pants. I fill up my purple and black reusable to-go cup with hot water and a chai tea bag. I begin my make up starting with base, then blush, eye liner, eye shadow, eye lashes. I do my hair, and pin my headpiece. I then put on my tights and layer up in my American Apparel leg warmers, warm up pants and a grey Lululemon zip up workout jacket. I have a banana and then finish up with lipstick and an Altoid. The whole process takes about an hour.
Next I head downstairs to the stage, sign in, and begin stretching. I do an abdominal series and do a complete barre, with a few small jumps at the barre and then I head to the rosin box. I tape my toes, put my toe condoms (yes, that is what they are called!) on my big toe and second toes, place my tights over my feet, rosin my heels and the inside of my pointe shoes. I then place my lambs wool toe pads in the rosin box, then on my toes, and put the shoe on my foot. I do the left shoe then the right. I tie and sew in my ribbons. Then one last restroom stop and I go to the costume room. I like to be in my pointe shoes at the top of the 20 minute call, which is the top of the intermission at NYCB. Once in costume I prance on the stage to get the blood flowing. Brittany Pollack, Lauren King [fellow NYCB Soloists] and I do a special warm-up on stage minutes before the curtain goes up: We jog the perimeter of the stage, do four body role ups with arms doing a port de bras, two pirouettes, 8 small jumps and 8 large jumps finishing with a high five on the 8th large jump. Then the leg warmers come off and the curtain rises!
What do you look for in a dance partner?
I look for someone who is down to earth, supportive, a team player, and a hard worker. An ideal partner is someone who can put me at ease and who loves to laugh and can admit mistakes.
What is your favorite quote?
“But, in addition, in a complete life. For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. And in this way, one day or a short time does not make someone blessed and happy either” – Aristotle
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I don’t think I have a signature step, but I have been told that my port de bras is significant to me. I do something different with my arms that separates me from other dancers. I attribute the different look to my strict Russian training at The Harid Conservatory mixed with the School of American Ballet style.
A phrase I use far too often is…?
“What’s for dinner?”
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
Dancing in Troy Schumacher’s Warehouse under the Hudson [for BalletCollective] was a magical experience. The pas de deux that was created for me and Taylor Stanley was intense and filled with emotion. It was truly a special moment for me on stage, because I felt it was the first time in a performance that I was completely lost in the movement, the music, and the connection Taylor and I had. I transformed into someone so different than I thought was ever possible. I became vulnerable, angry, lost, hopeless, and powerful. It was a special performance and a special night for me in my growth as a dancer and artist.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I have extraordinary hearing…
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
In a year from now, I hope to be dancing well, growing as an artist, confident in my place in life and in the company. I hope to have the opportunity to learn and perform new and challenging roles. I most importantly hope I still desire and have the drive keep persevering to be the best person and dancer I can be.