Vixen Chat: Ashley Everett on Dancing With Beyonce and Lessons The Superstar Taught Her
If you've ever been to a Beyonce concert then you've seen Ashley Everett on stage hitting every move in unison with the performer.
At the tender age of 17, the red-headed beauty made her first adult decision between two life changing paths: Going to one of the biggest schools (Juilliard) in the world, or staying on tour and focus on being a professional dancer. She doesn't regret her decision for a second (could you blame her?), but when she recounts her choices, she often says "my life would be so different."
This is just the beginning for Ms. Everett. The dancer starred in the pilot episode of Hit The Floor and will make more appearances once she's done touring. Get to know the lady who spends almost as much time with BaddieBey as Jay and Blue Ivy, and lean in as she talks about working with H&M, juggling a long distance relationship, and advice for dancers.
VIBE Vixen: How did you begin your dance career?
Ashley Everett: I started dancing when I was three, my mom put me in ballet classes when I was just a baby and from day one I loved it. I was so serious with it. As I got older I practiced jazz, tap, and hip-hop. I moved to NY when I was 16 to pursue it in a more professional place [other than] my small town—I'm from Chico, a small town in Northern Cali. I trained at Alvin Ailey and was going down the concert dancer world but then I randomly went to the Beyonce audition and the rest was history.
That's dope! I hear you were supposed to go to Julliard. How hard was that decision?
I was enrolled and everything. It was a really difficult decision. I felt like it was the first adult decision I made, being technically an adult and on my own. I had to choose between going to one of the biggest schools in the world or staying on tour for a couple more months and trying to be a professional dancer after that. I asked a lot of my friends and mentors what they thought and they told me to follow my heart. I [figured] if I'm a working professional now, I can keep doing that after, I don't need to train anymore.
Do you ever regret it?
No, I haven't regretted it. I do think what would it be like if I did go. My life would be so different.
What was your first day like working with Beyonce, if you can remember?
I was so young, I was like 17. The first job I did was when Bday came out and she was shooting all these videos for a video DVD for the album. They asked me to come to LA and I was there with all these dancers who were shooting videos in 10 days. It was really overwhelming for me at 17. I was looking at [the dancers] like "wow, omg that's really that person!" I felt like I was at a big convention of professional dancers and I was trying to keep up with everybody. They asked me to do two videos, I did "Greenlight" and "Get me Bodied".
Photo Credit: Joe Wesley
What's the hardest part in keeping up with Beyonce?
She's definitely a hard worker and that forces us to work hard. All that woman knows is work.
Do you ever sleep?
Not really. sleep is definitely a blessing.
How has she changed since she's had Blue Ivy?
Now she has had the baby her priorities are different. She wants to spend more time with her family, because she used to not take days off. But she still works so hard. Even on tour in Europe, we'd have shoots for a video or a song she wanted to release. Nothing has really come out yet, but we've been doing shoots and re-shoots for music videos. We're always doing something.
How was it working with Beyonce when she was pregnant?
When she was pregnant, she was trying to keep it a secret but [we knew]. Everybody had a clue and when she revealed it we were all like "yay!"
Do you guys get to hang with her?
Yes, she hangs out backstage and runs around at rehearsal, she's just adorable.
How far in advance do you have to learn the dances.
Every process is different. Sometimes we know exactly what we need to learn and we have a day or two [to perfect it]. But most times they're creating it as we're learning, so we don't know what it's going to be and that process could be weeks. We worked on the new song "Standing on the Sun" for weeks but we're still changing things til' this day. We worked on "Single ladies" for three weeks trying to master it before the video shoot.
Did you ever think "Single Ladies" would be as big as it became?
No, absolutely not. I had no idea, I was just going along and I don't even think she knew it was going to be as big as it was.
Does it ever become surreal that you're working with Beyonce?
People ask me that all the time. She's still a human being, still a person, she has a heart, emotions, and she's cool. She's actually become like a big sister to me. Of course it's surreal in the sense that she's one of the biggest superstars that we have out right now. But I've gotten to know her; to me she's my boss.
What's your favorite video you've done?
"Single Ladies" is a favorite because it was so major and it did so well. I really like "Ego", but what's your favorite?
My favorite is "Run The World". I watched the documentary, and my hat goes out to you guys because I couldn't imitate it. I can imitate "Single Ladies" and "Get Me Bodied", but "Run The World" is difficult.
It was a long process, it was a three day shoot.
How long did it take you to learn the dance?
That's another one that it was like a workshop for weeks. Kimmie and I are usually there for the creative process with the choreographer. We workshop it, try it out, show it to her. If she likes it, she likes it, if she doesn't she's like "ehh, try something else" and then we keep doing that.
Was that the hardest dance to learn?
There's different levels of hardness. We have choreography that could be hard and situations that could be hard. It was hard to dance in the sand for "Run The World". The H&M commercial was hard because of all of the different elements.
Yes it looks all pretty and fun, but it was hell on that set! We had sand in every crevice you could think of in our body, our ears, our eyeballs, in my hair for weeks. It was a mess and we had four different elements to shoot. We had earth, which was the sand. For water, we were in the salt water and it was in our eyes. We had wind, and the wind felt like we were about to get blown off a cliff. Then you had fire, and fire's just fire of course.
And you had to make it look effortless and beautiful at the same time.
Of course but meanwhile, nobody knows that it was painful and hard.
How do you remember all the performances?
You definitely need a good memory after all these years. We rehearse a lot but we do make mistakes, maybe we just cover them up well. Every night while on tour, we get the show after we do it. We watch it and we correct ourselves, fix our spacing and fix our arms, or whatever needs to be fixed. Beyonce does the same thing.
Photo Credit: Joe Wesley
I see that your in a relationship. How is it juggling being in a relationship with traveling the world?
It's definitely difficult. I think for me and my man, we have great communication and trust. He's in the same business too. He's a dancer as well, he travels and he gets what I do and I get what he does. We have a really good understanding and Skype is the best thing ever [laughs]. It's definitely hard and after a month and a half or two months of not seeing him, I'm like "you have to come to me or I have to come to you."
Do you ever watch Jay-Z and Beyonce's relationship to help you out with your relationship?
Of course, they both are always working and they have crazy schedules and they make time to see each other. That's really what a relationship is about, making time for each other.
Do you go to her for any advice?
We've had talks like that, but for the most part I don't get too personal with her and Jay. But they have a really solid relationship, it's beautiful and Blue, she's so cute.
What's the greatest lesson you've learned from her?
I love her work ethic, it inspires me to keep striving to be better because she never settles for anything and she never feels like she's reached the top. I love that about her and it makes me want to be like that. It drives me to be better and push myself harder. She knows what she wants and doesn't settle for things that aren't going to make her completely happy and satisfied.
Do you want to start your own venture?
I definitely want to and I want to explore acting and some other elements of entertainment other than dance.
I saw you on Hit The Floor, are you going to pursue acting?
I shot that pilot with them so I was only in the first episode, but I definitely want to come back. The only reason I couldn't was because I was already doing Superbowl stuff with Beyonce but I stayed in touch with them and they want to bring my character back. Hopefully I'll be making a return on Hit The Floor in the next season.
Do you have any artist you would like to perform with?
I always say I want to work with Janet one day, which I have not. I wish I could have danced with Michael and I want to work with Justin Timberlake.
Whats your advice for any up and coming dancers?
The best advice I can give is to train in as many styles as you can. The more diverse you are, it gives you more options for jobs because you're a versatile dancer. Take as many classes, from as many people as you can so you can start building relationships and get to know people. Half the time they say it's not what you know but who you know and that's true. But it's also what you know that gets you there.
Photo Credit: Joe Wesley