We caught up with Ashly Isaacs, 26-year-old professional ballerina with the New York City Ballet, on the challenges and opportunities of being a full-time soloist as well as a student living in the city.
20something: Introduce yourself!
Ashly Isaacs: I’m Ashly. I’m 26. I live in Brooklyn with two lovely roommates and a cat. I’m a soloist with New York City Ballet and a student at Fordham University.
How old were you when you started ballet?
AI: I started taking ballet lessons at my father’s dance studio when I was three years old.
Was your journey through dance smooth sailing, or more of a rocky road?
AI: My path was definitely rocky, but I’ve learned invaluable lessons along the way and am proud of how hard I have worked.
What’s your favorite part about pursuing your passion as your career?
AI: Just that. I made a career out of what I’m passionate about.
People don’t glamorize the extremely taxing life of a ballerina. What’s the most challenging part of managing your work-life balance?
AI: For me, currently, the most challenging part has been working towards my bachelor’s degree while simultaneously working full-time as a ballet dancer. I find it challenging academically to stretch my classes over a longer period of time, and exhausting professionally to work on assignments after long days of rehearsals and performances. But worth it!
What has been the most rewarding role you’ve had thus far and why?
AI: My role in Justin Peck’s ‘The Times Are Racing’ is the most rewarding one I’ve danced to date. I always enjoy working with Justin because I think he’s very talented and his choreography reflects my generation. This particular role is very special because it was initially danced by a man, and gender-neutral casting is a pretty momentous step for ballet. It was also created during the election, which regardless of political views, was a very intense time in our country. Having the opportunity to channel my feelings into a ballet was a much needed and welcomed release!
If you weren’t a professional ballerina, what career do you think you’d pursue?
AI: If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would have aspired to become an archaeologist. I’m currently minoring in anthropology to explore this passion of mine as I find cultures and our historical origins not only incredibly important for us to understand but also genuinely fascinating.
Aside from ballet, what’s your favorite style of dance?
AI: Tap! I still tap around my kitchen to entertain my roommates. Another reason why I enjoy dancing The Times Are Racing so much is because I get to tap in one section.
What advice would you give aspiring ballerinas pursuing a career in dance?
AI: Stay curious! Don’t underestimate yourself. Say yes to opportunities that challenge you, and I think in this industry it’s important not to subscribe to unhealthy body standards. Beyond that, embrace the things about yourself that are different. It’s all we have to truly define ourselves as artists and people.
Ok, time for rapid fire:
Sweet or salty?
Beach or mountains?
Center Stage or Bring It On?
AI: Center stage
Coffee or Juice?
Spring or Fall?
Tap or Jazz?
Movie or TV show?
Ice cream or fro-yo?
AI: Ice cream
Instagram or Snapchat?
AI: Instagram. I don’t have Snapchat!