Melika Dez, Courtesy LINES Ballet

Ashley Mayeux: How the Versatile  LINES Dancer Went From Ballet to Modern and Back Again

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."

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After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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