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During one of Charlotte Nash's first few weeks with Houston Ballet II, she was thrown into a run-through of Balanchine's Theme and Variations. "I had never really understudied before and I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "I fell right away and was quickly replaced." For Nash, now a dancer with Festival Ballet Providence, the episode was a tough lesson. "I was mortified, but then I said to myself, 'Okay, I need to figure out how to learn things more quickly.'"

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Ballet Stars
Melika Dez, Courtesy LINES Ballet

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.

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Houston Ballet's Jared Matthews and Sara Webb in"The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Despite the devastation and pain that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have left in their wake this fall, it's been encouraging to see dancers step up in aid of their communities: When the future of Houston Ballet's Nutcracker seemed uncertain, venues around the city pulled together to allow the company to produce the show on a "hometown tour." And when Florida ballet companies had to evacuate, Atlanta Ballet and Charlotte Ballet welcomed them with open arms. In addition, New York City-based studio Broadway Dance Center offered community classes in September with proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

The next in this series of good deeds is Hearts for Houston, a benefit performance bringing dancers from seven major companies together at New York City's Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater to raise money for the United Way of Greater Houston's Harvey Relief Fund. Scheduled for Sunday, October 22, the evening will feature members of the Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Washington Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hearts for Houston is imagined and produced by Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews (both formerly of ABT) and funded by patrons Phoebe and Bobby Tudor and sponsor Neiman Marcus.

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Mayeux in the studio. Photo by Ani Collier, Courtesy Sin Gogolak.


For the last two decades, Complexions Contemporary Ballet has shown an exciting and edgy side of ballet. This continues into their 20th-anniversary season (running now through Nov. 30 at The Joyce in NYC) with a program including a mix of company classics, as well as two world premieres by Dwight Rhoden and a work by American Ballet Theatre's Marcelo Gomes. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with company member Ashley Mayeux as she prepped for the ambitious season.

Dwight Rhoden's Head Space is one of the world premieres this season. How would you describe it?
It is chaotic at moments, but it's also very soft at times. Complexions usually projects to the audience, but in this ballet, Dwight wanted us to be more introverted because we're trying to represent something that's inside of your thoughts.

Certain nights you're performing Head SpaceHissy Fits andInnervisions. What advice would you have for dancers about getting through a long program like that?

You need a lot of focus and a lot of rest, and smart dancing. We have rehearsal all day before the show. Usually they would like us to do everything full-out, but we have to be able to deliver a great show for the audience that night. Most of the time, we try to practice the hardest things we need to first and then do a smart mark-through in tech rehearsals. 

Do you have any tricks that help you get through a long performance?
Well, they have lots of candy for us backstage just in case your energy level gets low. But usually I just like to keep going. Sometimes it's hard to do one piece in the beginning and then not do a second act and then try to get back into it. So it's actually good that I'm doing three straight acts. 

How have you seen yourself grow since joining Complexions in 2012?
I've made a 180-degree change. Dwight and I have had this conversation. When I first got there, I struggled so much to get the style. But with time and getting to know what Dwight wants, getting to know the company and finding friends that could help me through, I really changed the way I work. Now I'm not so worried about what people are thinking because everyone in the company is supportive of my choices and can help me make the right choices about what I want to say onstage.

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