Whenever The Joffrey Ballet needs a bravura allegro dancer, Allison Walsh, a powerful natural jumper, is at the ready. But at 25, this small, muscular, dark-eyed dancer—who joined The Joffrey as an apprentice in 2004 and was invited into the company the following year—has started to develop a new profile.
Ashley Wheater, The Joffrey’s artistic director, has been helping Walsh find another aspect of her talent. He told her: “You are a powerhouse, so now work on being a ballerina, and don’t always hit so hard. Be more nuanced.” While Walsh remains ever ready to soar—and has been tapped in recent seasons to perform a wide range of new works by such choreographers as Edwaard Liang, Jessica Lang and James Kudelka, as well as to dance the lead in Twyla Tharp’s demanding Waterbaby Bagatelles—she also has begun exploring the subtleties of adagio and partnering. Not surprisingly, she has jumped into the process with her usual brio. —Hedy Weiss
Allison Walsh: Things changed for me at The Joffrey with the arrival of Ashley Wheater as artistic director, although I already had begun doing new roles. I love Ashley’s classes and feel they’ve improved my technique. And his advice about becoming a real ballerina—his belief that I could be doing more principal roles but first I had to see myself in that way—really started to change my thinking.
Edwaard Liang, who asked me to learn a solo and pas de deux for his Age of Innocence last year, also had an impact. He told me I had a great adagio; I had never thought that. And working on his piece with my partner, Matthew Adamczyk, was a terrific experience, because I usually dance by myself and depend on myself. I had to give up some of that self-reliance and let the boy be in control. It irked me at first, because I like to lead, but I learned how to compromise and communicate.
We also worked recently with James Kudelka. He knew exactly what he wanted, and he likes things danced with full force, so that was natural for me. We were all dressed in long tulle skirts, so we looked classical, but he wanted us to really work our legs and feet, move quickly and take the classical line to an extreme.
In the company, I now keep my eye on Victoria Jaiani and Christine Rocas because adagio comes so naturally to them, and you can learn so much from other dancers. Ultimately, you really are on your own as a professional dancer. And as you get older, you become more responsible for your own progress.