Ashley Murphy in Giselle at The Washington Ballet. Photo by Theo Kossenas

Spotlight: Someone Once Told Ashley Murphy to Stay Where She's Comfortable. She Did the Opposite.

Ashley Murphy was the leading lady of Dance Theatre of Harlem for many of her 13 years there. But in 2016, she took a leap of faith, leaving her coveted place as reigning ballerina for a spot in The Washington Ballet.

"I wasn't really growing anymore—they didn't need to pay attention to me because they knew I would work on things on my own. I felt like I'd become everybody's mom," she told writer Gia Kourlas. "I need to be in a setting where I'm more equal with other people."

Two years later, she's found a home in D.C.—and has no regrets about her decision. We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:


What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?

That we don't eat! Dancers definitely eat healthier than the average person, but we also have our "cheat" days where we eat pizza and ice cream! I am also from Louisiana and in the South we love our food.

What other career would you like to try?

My goal is to become a physical therapist so that I can help other dancers feel and dance their very best.

What was the last dance performance you saw?

Nederlands Dans Theater and they were absolutely amazing!

What's the most-played song on your phone?

"Broken But I'm Healed" by Byron Cage. This gospel song is so inspirational to me.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

I take a power nap, drink a Red Bull and take three Advil.

What's your favorite book?

Where the Red Fern Grows. It's been my fave since I was a kid!

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

Usually in my bed!

Where did you last vacation?

Cancun, Mexico

What app do you spend the most time on?

Pinterest. I love finding new ideas!

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

Gelsey Kirkland. Nothing more to be said, right?

What's the first item on your bucket list?

Sky diving, if I ever get the courage.

What's your go-to crosstraining routine?

TRX Bootcamp, WERQ and PlyoFit! They all are a good kick in the rear.

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

Stay where you are comfortable.

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

I performed at the White House for President Obama. It was such an honor!

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J. Alice Jackson, Courtesy CHRP

Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World Finally Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

What happens when a dance festival is set to celebrate a landmark anniversary, but a global pandemic has other plans?

Chicago's Rhythm World, the oldest tap festival in the country, should have enjoyed its 30th iteration last summer. Disrupted by COVID-19, it was quickly reimagined for virtual spaces with a blend of recorded and livestreamed classes. So as not to let the pandemic rob the festival of its well-deserved fanfare, it was cleverly marketed as Rhythm World 29.5.

Fortunately, the festival returns in full force this year, officially marking three decades of rhythm-making with three weeks of events, July 26 to August 15. As usual, the festival will be filled with a variety of master classes, intensive courses and performances, as well as a teacher certification program and the Youth Tap Ensemble Conference. At the helm is Chicago native Jumaane Taylor, the newly appointed festival director, who has curated both the education and performance programs. Taylor, an accomplished choreographer, came to the festival first as a young student and later as part of its faculty.

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July 2021