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Spotlight on Ashley Shaw

By Ben Bunce

Matthew Bourne’s ballets have seen a great deal of memorable performers take to the stage to play iconic roles, from the likes of Adam Cooper as the Swan/Stranger in the original cast of Swan Lake to Etta Murfitt as Clara in Bourne’s Nutcracker!.

Having already starred as the title role in New Adventures' production of Cinderella, Princess Sugar in Nutcracker! and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Ashley Shaw is one leading lady that has certainly left her mark in the world of dance. We caught up with her as she prepared to grace the stage once more in The Red Shows - Matthew Bourne / New Adventures. We caught up with Ashley to find out more about how she go to where she is today..

© Christopher Mann

What was the first show you ever saw?

I remember being very young, maybe 6 or 7, and my mum took me to see the Australian Ballet. I can't even remember what show it was But I do remember being absolutely mesmerised. It was all so beautiful and I just wanted to be one of the pretty girls in tutus.

When did you know you wanted to do it as a career?

If I'm honest I don't remember there being a specific moment. I just always knew it's what I wanted to be. For me there was never any doubt or even thoughts on other options. I just knew! One thing I remember very well was going to see Matthew Bourne's The Car Man (the production I'm currently rehearsing for) when I was at school and I was completely blown away! I recall walking out of the theatre and thinking 'I have to be part of that company!' That was the moment I knew exactly the kind of work I wanted to do. To think in a few weeks I'll be performing in that show is just incredible to me.

How old where you when you started dancing?

I was just 3 years old when I started. So I've been dancing for a long long time! I started with classical ballet then pretty soon I was doing it all! Jazz, modern, contemporary and tap, I couldn't get enough!


© Johan Persson
© Johan Persson

Who is your inspiration or idol?

I've never really had one specific idol but have been inspired by many different dancers throughout my training and career. I think it changed and developed as I did. Sometimes I was obsessed with ballerinas the next minute actresses, singers and musical theatre performers. I've always drawn inspiration from a variety of places which I think keeps things exciting and fresh.

What advice would you give to someone looking to go into the same business?

I would say work hard, grow a thick skin and love what you do. Most dancers at some point will experience rejection, injury, disappointment, judgment. You've got to be a tough cookie! But it's your love and passion that will keep you going and the rewards are so worth it.

Most disastrous audition or fall on stage?

Falling on stage is always embarrassing! When I was playing Princess Sugar in The Nutcracker I slipped in some fake snow right at the front of the stage. My legs just slipped out from underneath me! Luckily my partner caught me before I completely hit the floor but It was press night at Sadlers wells and I was mortified. Sadly, that was not the end of the fake snow as I slipped again just recently whilst playing Kim in the touring production of Edward Scissorhands, during the duet around the ice sculpture. It's a big, beautiful, romantic moment in the show and I ended up flat on my bum! This time my partner had scissors for hands so there wasn't much he could do...Other than laugh at me!!

What is your favourite part you've ever played and why?

I've been really lucky in that I've got to play so many wonderful roles and I've genuinely loved every one. But I suppose my favourite would have to be Cinderella. It was the first principal role I ever performed with the company. I was covering the role at the time so getting the chance to go on was just a dream come true! Cinderella goes on such a journey throughout the piece and to be able to explore that range of emotions as well as it being a very demanding dance role was extremely rewarding. 

© Mikah Smillie
© Christopher Trenfield

What is your best moment of career to date?

I think getting to perform at City Centre in New York was a massive highlight for me. We toured around the USA with Sleeping Beauty and got to see some amazing places. Getting to play Aurora, a role I helped create, for sold out audiences in New York was just surreal.

What would you do if you weren't dancing?

I think it would still have to be something quite creative like interior design. I've always wanted to do that. I also have a bit of a leotard obsession (a bit is an understatement!) so I'd love to have my own leotard/dance wear line someday.

If you could turn any story into a ballet what would it be?

Hmm.. That's a tough one. I love big epic love stories with lots of passion, drama, betrayal and even murder. Maybe something like Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The Tudors would make for a very sexy, dramatic ballet. 

© Natalia Gerasimova

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