No matter where her career has taken her, Ashley Mayeux has never strayed too far from her first love, ballet. Even while dancing for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Mayeux would try to fit in ballet class as often as possible. After two seasons with the modern company, she decided to audition for Alonzo King LINES Ballet, despite not feeling entirely prepared. "Somehow it came back to me and was pretty natural," says Mayeux. Natural enough that she landed the job and, in 2018, moved across the country to restart her contemporary ballet career.
After taking a first job with the Broadway musical Aida overseas, her teacher Sarita Allen introduced her to Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director Dwight Rhoden and encouraged her to audition. She got the job and immediately felt at home in the contemporary ballet vocabulary. "It was the best of both worlds: We 'got down' but also used our technique," says Mayeux.
While getting back into pointe shoes has not been completely painless, Mayeux's unconventional path has built towards this moment. A native of Houston, Mayeux went to a performing arts high school in Texas before graduating with a BFA from SUNY Purchase. "We were classically trained in both modern dance and ballet, and so I have a love for all of those things," she says.
"Ashley has an articulate technical command, and she quickly masters new material like I've rarely seen. Soaring above all those qualities is her truth-seeking depth of thought, and expansive heart." —Alonzo King
Four and a half years later, she was ready to try a different repertoire. She went to an open audition for Ailey, and, to her surprise, she was offered a contract. "I was thrown into learning 17 different pieces at once," she says. "There were so many styles and choreographers. It felt like I was changing my hat constantly." The transition from Complexions to Ailey required Mayeux to drop her center of gravity and tape up her feet to ease into dancing barefoot. "I also had to take Horton classes to get that feel back into my body," she says. But after two years of grueling work and international touring, ballet was calling her back. "Ballet is my first love because it was the first thing to challenge me."
But returning to the genre hasn't come without challenges. "Rolling through my shoes and getting control over them is something I'm still working through," says Mayeux. After an early flare-up of Achilles tendonitis, she began working with a physical therapist to build more strength in her lower legs and doing Gyrotonic to strengthen her core and other weak spots.
Rachel Neville, Courtesy Mayeux
While all of her professional experiences have added something different, Mayeux is currently loving the balance of freedom and direction Alonzo King gives, the collaborative artistic process with musicians and designers, and the small community atmosphere the 12-dancer company allows. "Alonzo gives you a premise and directs you in a certain way that it is just an idea and not the answer. I get inspired by seeing my colleagues make choices, and it has helped me trust my instincts."
It's not entirely surprising that the collaborative environment at LINES appeals so much to Mayeux. After all, going with her gut has always been her driving force. "My whole premise is to follow your heart. I did, and now I'm so happy that I listened."