Ashley Tuttle

The former ABT principal reunites with Twyla Tharp.

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At ABT, you were often cast as the young girl—the innocent. That's what you mean by "pink"?
Yes. The ingenue. She said, "Well, let's see something different," so then I'm trying to find other ways and not fall back into what's comfortable, and on top of it I'm older. I'm not the young girl. And I think outside of [cast member] Alex Brady, I'm the oldest person in the second cast, and it seems like I'm playing the youngest character. Betsy is very young or the least worldly, so that's an interesting dynamic, because I'm...

You've lived.
Well, I used to be the 16-year-old, the baby, and so I'm like, How am I going to play pink and do it differently and be older? It's had its own set of challenges. I'm classically trained, so with that comes a certain carriage: Maybe the character would have been more suited to being performed by someone a little more awkward. I wore glasses for awhile, and I tried being kind of nerdy, but I think ultimately, possibly, my carriage made me look a little more elegant. It's not bad or good; I love the first cast, and the way they do it. For me, it has been challenging.

But I think the second act is cool, because the part isn't so pink.
Right, right. I had to make some different choices [from the first cast] that Twyla and I talked about. I have a different costume. It's a little more grownup. And my lingerie [in the second act] has touches of black because, as she said, "Your Betsy has lived a little differently." I choose to wear heels more in the second act, which I think gives me a more womanly look. Having ballet shoes on may make you look younger. And the second act is really interesting; I play her as if she's new in town. Maybe she's a Southern belle; she falls in love with this nerdy guy [Marty], but ultimately, it's real love. . At the end of the first act, you're mad because he's acting like a stereotypical guy—he doesn't want to deal with commitment, babies, family, marriage, and he kind of freaks out.

I think you're funny in that scene.
Thank you. By the end, in "Valentine," when we're both are alone, I think it's a mature commitment. It's fun to play with, but it's challenging. Then there are numbers like "My Way." It's such a beautiful piece. I tend to play that just as I feel the dance is—it's elegant. But on a personal level, I have been on such a journey. It's really, really cool to look back, but trust me: If you had talked to me years ago, I would have been like, "It's awful, nothing's working out." Now I'm in a different place, and it's all great. ABT—I haven't seen them this season; I have a lot of friends in the company. I'm sad about [not dancing] the repertory. I'm sad to see one of my coaches, Georgina [Parkinson], pass away. She was very supportive of me and helpful in my career. Of course, I love coaching.

Would you like to coach one day?
I like teaching, but I would love to coach. I think dance has definitely become more commercial, and I don't know if that has to do with what's on television and all that, but I was really taught by Misha and Georgina that the way you first step onstage and the way you open a door is important. I would love to help dancers with all the little things that give texture to a role. I don't think it's my time yet, because I still want to dance. I don't know where I would do it. You never know! I know a lot of principals over the years have left in ways that maybe weren't the way they hoped or envisioned, but they've come back and started teaching the summer programs and things. I would like to share some of that knowledge as well.

How does Tharp push dancers?
I've never seen any other choreographer come in the studio at 6 or 7 at night, like at Ballet Theatre, and everyone in the room dances full-out. Even though it's the end of the day. Maybe it's her actual being. She demands it, but not verbally. Her presence says: "I'm here, you're gonna dance." And people do. You go full-out. But that's probably because she's full-out. She's completely present and [gives] 120 percent when she's sitting there or when she's dancing with you or watching. It's not superficial: She's comparing it to what it looked like the last time. Where are you as a person? Where can you push? It's all-encompassing. She demands no more of us than she does of herself.

Check out our past coverage of Ashley Tuttle:
Holding court ABT's divine Ashley Tuttle finds inspiration in Balanchine—and basketball.
Turning points The good-bye girl.

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