Ashley Tuttle

The former ABT principal reunites with Twyla Tharp.

Do you do anything outside of dance?
I was doing Bikram yoga for a while. It's so hot. [Laughs] I tend to get a little frustrated in yoga. I get angry, and it's the opposite of what yoga's about, but I physically struggle: I have a hard time standing in parallel because I'm turned-out, and I don't have the upper-body strength for some of the poses. Or you're supposed to be parallel with your back [bent] forward and I spent my whole life turned-out with my back up. I get so hostile! That perfection comes out: I should be proficient in any physical goal I have, and I'm not. It's hard. I ran for a while, but then I would get mad at myself because I was gasping for air. It's been a struggle to find something else to stay in shape with, especially when I wasn't dancing. Ultimately, for the way I am—my bone structure and my muscle tone—ballet is what sits best with me. Once again, to go to ballet and to be on top of it and present instead of, Oh I have to be in it, I've got to be perfect—it's such a nice feeling. Now, I port de bras to the barre and I just enjoy the stretching, and I can see the humor, and I can laugh at myself a lot more. There are still those days when you're hard on yourself, but I feel well-rounded about it now.

I'm curious about how your ego has handled this: How do you deal with the difference of being at that top place at ABT and getting a job as a swing dancer?
There have been moments, of course, where I was like, Take a deep breath. Remember why you're here. As long as I kept my purpose—to dance—all of the other stuff you can put aside. The only things that are really harmful to a dancer is injury or when your body's not doing what it wants. But things like, at ABT I had my personal dresser, and now I'm sharing a dressing room with other people—I'm enjoying being part of the community. Being in the ensemble in Atlanta, I had a blast, because there was community onstage. Last night, I had a great time in the ensemble. The pressure's different. For instance, in "Take Five," as Betsy, I get nervous doing some of those pirouettes, because the lighting is very difficult, and you have to turn to the partner's rhythm and not your natural rhythm. I can really stress out, but in the ensemble, I have a little bit more freedom. It's not like you're by yourself doing this turn or like [Balanchine's] Theme and Variations. It's fun to feel the community, the support and the freedom. Ultimately the goal was to feel that freedom no matter what you're dancing. I put the limits on myself. I should feel just as free doing "Take Five," but that's something I'm working toward. But yeah, sure, there are moments when people might make a comment, "Well, you're not the star of the show." Little things like that. And you just have to be, "No, it's not about that." I think I've been okay with the ego thing. It'll be interesting where things will go from here. Sometimes I feel a little like Cassie in Chorus Line. It's hard to get a job because people say, "You did this, so we can't offer you that." But I just want to dance. This winter Keith [Roberts, who performs the role of Hank in Come Fly Away] and I danced Carmen at the Met Opera.

Christopher Wheeldon choreographed that, right?
Yes. We had two little sections. We opened the opera and did a little thing in the second act. But to be in that theater—I had thought the night I left after Romeo and Juliet and saw the light on center stage...

The ghost light?
Yeah. I'd taken my name off my door and packed up all my things and thought, Well, I'll never be here again. And it was hard! [Pauses] Talking about it, I get a little choked up. But then I got to be back on that stage, and it was such a blessing. I got to see the beautiful house and the crew, all the stage guys were like, "Hey, what's up?!?" It was such a nice way to go back and know that I can stand on the stage again and have my goodbye and a bow, and it will be okay.

Come Fly Away continues at the Marquis Theatre through Sept 5.


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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