Career

At a Crossroads: Quincie Hydock

Quincie Hydock's road from trainee to BFA grad

Hydock with Ryan Smith; Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet

Growing up a bunhead in Virginia Beach, Quincie Hydock’s main dream was to join a classical ballet company. She trained seriously at Virginia Ballet Theatre and continued there while attending high school at the Virginia’s Governor’s School for the Arts; as graduation neared, she knew she was on track for a college dance program. With its strong ballet program, Butler University in Indiana ranked high on Hydock’s list of schools.

Flash forward five years later, and Hydock is in somewhat of a different place than she expected. After graduating in 2013 with a BFA in dance and choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University, she’s a freelance dancer in New York City, where’s she’s also presented her own work. And while she still hopes to join a concert dance company (like Hubbard Street Dance Chicago), she’s sporting bare feet more than pointe shoes these days and has her sights set on more contemporary work. —Jenny Dalzell

How did you choose VCU?

My high school hosted the National High School Dance Festival my junior year, and the director of Richmond Ballet’s trainee program told me about their partnership with VCU: The first two years of college you’re a full-time trainee with the Richmond Ballet and you get credit toward a BFA. I hadn’t considered that program before—I wanted strictly ballet and I had assumed VCU was all modern. But when I auditioned for Butler in the October of my senior year, I didn’t get in. That turned out to be okay, because I wouldn’t have auditioned for VCU.

What was your schedule like? 

As a trainee, I took my gen ed classes in the morning, and headed to Richmond Ballet from 1 pm to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. I only had one VCU dance class per week—a modern class taught by different guest artists.

After the two years as a trainee, students are either chosen for Richmond Ballet’s second company, or they can continue college. What was your route? 

I switched over to be full-time at VCU. I took ballet four times per week and modern five days per week. And I started taking choreography classes, which is something I realized that I love.

How did you feel when you weren’t selected? 

Well, my first year, none of the trainees were chosen, and then only two trainees were chosen out of my year. You just have to keep in mind that it’s a professional company. They’re selective in whom they choose; and they often selected people from outside auditions—dancers they didn’t know as trainees.

By my second year into the traineeship, I realized that I didn’t necessarily want a career in classical ballet. That was great, because I got to really explore the school and modern dance. Plus, I never got senioritis since I was really only at school for two years.

In retrospect, would you have made a different choice after high school?

I absolutely love what happened. The best thing about the traineeship was that I got professional experience with a company, which has been especially pivotal now as a freelancer. I know how to act like a professional; I know how hierarchies work—even simple things like not encroaching on someone else’s space at barre. I think it was a blessing that my original plan didn’t work out. I realized I was ready to explore something else.

Ashley Wallen's choreography brought The Greatest Showman to life. (Photo by Niko Tavernise, courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

The 2018 Oscar noms are here. Which is fun and all; we'll never not get excited about a night of glitz and glamor and, when we're lucky, pretty great dancing. But we'd be a heck of a lot more excited if the Academy Awards included a Best Choreography category. And really—why don't they?

Last year, La La Land's Oscars domination (FOURTEEN nominations) made the fact that Mandy Moore couldn't be recognized for her fantastic choreo—a huge, indisputable part of the film's success—seem especially cruel. This year, it feels weird not to recognize the dance contributions of Ashley Wallen (The Greatest Showman), Anthony Van Laast (Beauty and the Beast), and Aurélie Dupont (Leap!), to name just a few.

Read the full story at dancespirit.com.

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Breaking Stereotypes
Ash in Rochester, NY. PC Thaler Photography by Arleen and Daryl Thaler for the Swan Dreams Project

Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.

"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.

After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.

Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org

In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."

She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."

Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.

Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.

Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."

If you're interested in supporting the project, check out the online shop, or donate directly at swandreamsproject.org.

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