Panther Profile: Taylor Ash

The stage lights turn on. Onstage, the dancers line up. The music begins, and then the audience is caught up in the beauty unfolding right before their very eyes.
Sophomore Taylor Ash has been a contemporary and ballet dancer since she was six years old. Dancing has touched nearly every aspect of her life, from her daily experiences to her academics future.
“Dance has been my way of coping with life, and if I’m having a bad day I can go to the dance studio,” Taylor said. “I can forget everything because it’s such a beautiful form of expression. It’s just—it’s me. It makes me feel like myself.”
Like every dancer, Taylor has had to overcome various obstacles in order to continue her pursuits. One of the most difficult things that she has had to deal with as a committed dancer is her height. At 6’0, she has huge advantages such as the ability to make long lines in dance and standing out onstage, but when she was younger and still growing, she was constantly having to adjust her positions for balancing and turning, sometimes up to a weekly basis. However, since she has now stopped growing, it is much easier for her to find positions.
“Today one of my biggest struggles is moving fast, and because I’m taller I have to move faster than everyone else in order to move my longer limbs on the same timing. But I’m working on that and I’m improving,” she said. “Another downside to my height would be that in group dances I tend to stand out. This is both good and bad: good, because the eye is drawn to me, bad, because if I mess up it’s really noticeable. So, basically, my height doesn’t let me blend in with the other girls on stage.”
One of the reasons that she has continued dancing for so long is because she has said it has been her way of coping with hardships she has faced throughout her life. A particular time she can remember using dance to help her with other things was when she was younger.
“I have ADHD and it was hard for me to focus in class,” Taylor said. “I was being diagnosed, and through dance I could focus and I could just keep my head straight, I guess. I think I just applied the self-discipline that dance taught me to school and it really helped.”
Auditions, competitions and performances have given Taylor multiple opportunities to travel around the globe. In addition to traveling around the state, she went to Washington, D.C. in the summers of 2011 and 2012 to attend a 3-week intensive at the Kirov Academy of Ballet. There she trained six days a week with a classes in ballet followed by a contemporary, character or flamenco dance class depending on the day, as well as classes in health, history of Russian ballet and yoga. In March 2014 she went on an International Tour with her former ballet company and went to Ireland, where she took classes and rehearsed before performing in the cities of Cork and Naas. It was during last winter that she auditioned for a summer intensive program with Open World Dance Foundation.
“At my studio I was with at the time, the director chooses all of the auditions that he feels is best suited for us,” she said. “OWDF was one of my auditions so I started researching it and fell in love with their mission after meeting Ekaterina at the audition.”
The audition for the summer intensive was a ballet class observed by judges. In this case, her judges were OWDF founders Ekaterina Shchelkanova and Anton Boytsov.
“I was truly inspired by Open World’s outreach efforts to bring arts to orphans that otherwise would not have access to them,” she said. “I guess I just wanted to be a part of this truly beautiful organization. In addition, I thought being immersed in a different culture would also be an amazing experience.”
A week after her audition, Taylor received her acceptance email. Together with her mother, she traveled to the countries of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania for three weeks on her trip.
“My favorite moment on the trip was the first day I took ballet class. When I looked around the room at each person I realized that not only was Open World bring inspiration to youth, but they were also uniting nations,” she said. “It just sort of hit me that I was standing in a room with friends from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Norway, and the United States who were all here because we had a common love for dance.”
Inspired by OWDF’s mission to help Russian orphans everywhere come together through a shared love for dance, Taylor decided to make her DECA project a United By Dance Fundraiser. With the collaboration of the IB program, the dance company and the theatre program and the support of administration and teachers, they organized the fundraiser in November and raised over a thousand dollars for OWDF with DECA’s Miracle Minute. On December 16 they held a silent auction and a night of performances in the auditorium to fundraise.
“My favorite part of the project was the final product when we had given back to the community and campus by uniting everyone to help a global need,” Taylor said. “The night went better than I could have dreamed. I was just in a constant state of awe at the beauty that we had all created.”
Currently, Taylor’s goals for dance are to simply improve and become the best dancer that she can be. Whether she will continue with a dance career after she has finished school, however, is a question she has been asking herself since the 5th grade. A dancer’s career is relatively short due to the fact that the prime age most dance companies will hire a dancer is the age when most people will be attending college, forcing dancers to choose between the career or going to a traditional college.
“Academics are extremely important to me and my family, so this decision had been looming over me for years now,” Taylor said.
This year, she made the decision to go with the traditional college route. She has cut the time she spends training down from about 25 hours per week to about 6-8 hours in order to focus on school.
“It was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make, but I think I made the right one,” she said. “With that said, I want dance to be a part of my life forever, whether or not I am physically dancing on stage.”