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The Juilliard School is known for it’s seven percent acceptance rate. This school, that a million talented dancers audition for, only accepts 12 boys and 12 girls into their freshman class. Ashley Everett, who was 17 at the time, was one of those 12 girls admitted into Juilliard in Fall 2007. A once in a lifetime opportunity that many would be elated for. However, Ashley was presented with another once in a lifetime opportunity, the chance to dance with the legendary Beyoncé. Ten years later, Ashley is still Queen Bey’s dance captain and has a bright future ahead of her.
At the age of 16, Ashley moved to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a professional dancer. While taking dance classes at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ashley met the Lemonade artist’s choreographer Frank Gatson Jr., who informed her of an upcoming audition for Beyoncé. Fast forward to a couple months later, Ashley went to an open call audition for Beyoncé to test her faith.
After standing in line for hours to audition, Ashley made an outstanding impression on Beyoncé. Ashley, who is known for her signature fiery-red hair, was faced with a difficult decision: to finish touring with Beyoncé or focusing on her ballerina technique at Juilliard. Needless to say, Ashley’s decision worked out in the end and allowed for her to explore endless opportunities throughout her dance career.
“She’s [Beyoncé] just so talented and I love that she pushes herself beyond her limits. She prefers to be uncomfortable. So if she makes herself and the audience uncomfortable, then she’s doing something right.” — Ashley Everett
Ashley completed her first successful tour, The Beyoncé Experience, in 2007. Two years later, at only nineteen years old, she was promoted to Queen Bey’s dance captain. Ashley also completed the rest of Yoncé’s tours including: I am..World Tour, Mrs. Carter World Tour, On The Run Tour, and The Formation World Tour. Ashley was one of two dancers featured in Bey’s iconic video released in 2008, “Single Ladies.” She was also slaying next to the “Crazy In Love” singer’s side during both of her Super Bowl performances and countless music videos.
Because of the red head’s success with Beyoncé, she has danced with other well-known superstars in the business. The former Rockettes dancer has also blessed the stage with Tinashe, Tina Turner, Ciara, Jennifer Lopez, Usher (URxTour) and many more. When Ashley is not on tour, she is in dance classes and teaching workshops. The fierce red-head has also tapped her talents into the acting world. She portrayed Peyton on VH1’s hit show, “Hit The Floor.”
Ne-Yo is another influential artist that Ashley has crossed paths with. After being on set for three of Ne-Yo’s music videos, sparks flew between Ashley and her dance partner John Silver. Today, the couple is discussing wedding plans, after seven years of dating. Silver proposed to Ashley on (Sept. 10) during a stop on The Formation World Tour. Beyoncé gave Silver the thumbs up to come on stage during “Single Ladies,” to ask Ashley a very important question, her hand in marriage. Ashley couldn’t stop smiling but being the professional that she is, she was able to finish the choreography. This time, with a ring on it.
“I’ve heard about proposals during the concert .. but I totally didn’t expect it for me. It was really cool. It was awesome that she [Beyoncé] allowed that to happen.” — Ashley Everett
I had the opportunity to speak to Ashley about what she has learned from working with Beyoncé, future career plans, and her surprise onstage proposal. Okay Ashley, let’s get in formation.
Dayna: Almost everyone is moved by the fact that you started dancing for Beyoncé at 17, but some don’t realize that you turned down Juilliard to take advantage of this opportunity. Were you scared turning down one of the best dance schools?
Ashley: Of course, as a little girl I dreamed of going to Juilliard. I watched “Save The Last Dance,” and it was one of my dreams in life. When I got accepted, I was like “OMG, this is amazing.” I planned on going, I was enrolled. I pulled out a week before I was supposed to move in the dorm because the tour [The Beyoncé Experience] got extended. I was having a hard time deciding, I asked around for advice, and everybody said follow your heart and do what you want to do. Obviously it was a great decision and either way I feel like I would’ve been happy. I still would’ve been winning. They were both dreams and goals of mine. But yeah, it was super hard to turn it down.
You are trained in multiple dance styles. What would your advice be to someone who aspires to be a professional dancer?
I always tell younger dancers and younger generations to train in all different styles, even if it’s not your passion, just so that you have it under your belt. The more that you know, the more diverse you are, and the more auditions you can go to. That just opens up more opportunities or doors for other jobs, gigs, award shows, just everything.
Do you feel as if social media has made it easier for dancers to make connections? Is this something you personally benefited from?
It is definitely a new day and age with social media. People are becoming “insta-famous.” They maybe never went on tour with artists but they put their classes or choreography up, it trends, it becomes major, and they’re teaching all over the world. It definitely has given a huge platform to anyone really. I’ve been around before Instagram was poppin’, I kind of hit my prime as it was coming up, so I have benefited from it somewhat. I’ve gained a following. People want me to post things because of my following, because of who I am and what I stand for. It’s cool, it is beneficial.
But you’re not just a dancer, you’re also an actress. What did you take away from your experience on VH1’s “Hit The Floor” and FOX’s “Empire?”
It’s definitely a new world for me. I had never done a series when I did VH1 so it was fun and a new experience. It’s almost like shooting a music video everyday. It’s different from live stage, because you get to try it again, until you get it right, so that’s the beauty of that. It’s a different world, but I like it.
What have you learned from working with Beyoncé throughout the years?
Well working with someone of her caliber, everyday you learn something new, just by watching. You don’t even have to ask. Just from being in the room with her, she’s been doing this for so long, so you just take everything that she’s saying and doing, and absorb it. I have learned work ethic. I always had work ethic, but this girl has it as well. Everyone on the team has to have a hard work ethic too. She’s just so talented and I love that she pushes herself beyond her limits. She prefers to be uncomfortable. So if she makes herself and the audience uncomfortable, then she’s doing something right.
You’ve danced alongside Beyoncé for over a decade. I have to ask as her dance captain, what are some of your absolute favorite routines to perform on stage with her?
“Single Ladies” is always a fun routine from the creative process of it, so it always has a special place in my heart. It’s like a little baby to me, as many times as I’ve done it. The audience loves it. I love performing “Bow Down.” “Bow Down” is always fun because you get to play a different character. There’s routines like “Partition” where you can be sexy and pretend you’re performing for your man. That’s what’s so amazing about her performance, she never does the same thing. She’s always challenging herself. Even when we do “Mine,” it’s more contemporary based. It’s really cool to be able to do all these different things.
Congrats on your proposal. How did you feel getting proposed to during the song “Single Ladies,” which has had such a powerful trademark on your career?
I feel like it just made sense. I’ve heard about proposals during the concert before to that song, but I totally didn’t expect it for me. It was really cool, I wasn’t expecting it. It was awesome that she [Beyoncé] allowed that to happen.
Have you discussed any wedding plans as of yet?
We were trying to plan for this fall, but timing just took it away. With our schedules, it’s hard to sit down and make final decisions, so I think we’re gonna go with Fall of 2018.
John and yourself are both dancers. At your reception, do you think your first dance as a couple will be a slow dance or something a little more choreographed?
I’m not sure [she laughs]. It’s funny because he [John Silver] was saying we can get up there and do a thousand eight-counts. We might just keep it real simple and do a two-step. I’m sure once we really start thinking about it, we’ll be like “oh no.” I’ll have to try and outdo him, me and my girls have to come for him and his guys. So I don’t know, we’ll see [she laughs].
What can we expect from Ashley Everett for the rest of the year besides busting fierce dance moves of course?
Well I definitely have a lot of press things coming out. I am also working on two other projects. Some things are TV based, so depending on how fast we move with that, you could find me on TV sometime soon. I’m exploring acting more too, so hopefully a TV show, a film, a commercial or something. Of course, dancing, along the way.
What is your life motto?
Well I’m sure everyone says this, I always say “live, laugh, love.” I try not to take life too seriously, because you’re always going to hit a bump in the road. I always try to surround myself with positive people who are going to bring smiles to my face, when I’m feeling down and out. Live, laugh, love.
Lastly, describe the feeling you get when you’re on stage.
I would say it’s an out-of-body experience. A character takes over, another person. I’m not thinking about what I’m doing, I’m just doing it and performing. I’m another person when I’m up there. That’s what was so odd about the proposal. It was bringing my role and character with my real life person, all together at once. I was like “Woah, I’m vulnerable, I don’t know how to act right now.” But yeah, it’s totally an out of body experience. It’s amazing how I can let go and live in the moment to perform.