We had the good fortune of connecting with Joanna Ashleigh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Joanna, how do you think about risk?
For me, risks are simply new goals I haven’t achieved yet. The risk is in what will happen if I don’t meet that goal 100%. I almost always meet a percentage of my goals and I work towards building off of those small wins. The biggest risk I took was leaving my well paying job to go back to school for a degree in Dance. The biggest risk here was making the audition into the 10am Technique class which you needed multiple semesters of, in order to graduate. Being a non-traditional student whose dance background was not ballet or modern was a hindrance. I did not make it in the first time. My small win in that situation was more knowledge of what was expected and I worked towards those expectations. I did make the audition the second time. Much can be said for perseverance… and stubbornness. Set your mind toward your goal and keep at it, no matter the setbacks. Readjust when needed. I graduated in May 2020 with a degree in Dance and with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Currently, I am extremely excited to be collaborating on a performance with my dear friend Molly McClellan again. We have created a duet for an upcoming show in October. Making solo dances for me is to be in an unending world of possibilities which can be overwhelming. Collaboration immediately focuses those possibilities into workable materials for movement. I have also just restarted in-person dance classes in Denver! I offer classes that put the body through a full workout plus a new dance combination every week, pulling from my varied background in Folkloric Middle Eastern dances, Raqs Sharqi, Contemporary Persian, American Cabaret, Silvestre Technique, Datura Style, Modern, and Post Modern Dance.
Was it easy to get where I am today professionally? Yes and no. Yes, because for dance there are no requirements to becoming a general teacher in the States. So, you can create your own path. For me, that path was taking public classes up to 6x a week, in addition to traveling to multiple conferences around the country to perform and take classes from national and international instructors. I earned multiple certificates and eventually went back to college to earn my degree in Dance.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of the first places I love to take friends is to Weathervane Cafe in Denver. Get a Chai Rooibos Cambric with orange and clove syrup, it’s the best! We’d take those drinks over to the Denver Botanic Gardens on York to peruse the beauty there and catch up. We’d definitely visit one of the Lucille’s restaurants, Eggs Jennifer for the win! Naturally, we’d take a sojourn to the mountains for a walk or picnic; Jeffco Open Space has some of my favorite spots. Prior to that though we’d grab some pastries from Taste of Denmark. We’d grab sushi one night at Sushi Basho for sure! Making a special trip to Shaggy Sheep Restaurant in Grant, CO is always a must. I’m all about finding a quite place to enjoy a meal that fosters engaging conversation.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
So many people have propelled me to where I am today it feels impossible to choose only a few. I have enormous gratitude and love for my partner Ryan, who encourages me in everything I do. To my dear friend Lisa who encouraged and supported me throughout my college experience and beyond. And lastly to Rachel Brice. Without having gone through her “8 Elements of Belly Dance” training I may never have returned to college that second time.
The Dancers Eye Photography, Casey Campbell Photography, Steven Bennetts.