Meet BalletX’s Ashley Simpson

November 22, 2022

In the BalletX rehearsal studio, a converted warehouse with sky-high ceilings and equally lofty technique, Ashley Simpson is right at home. Through the precision and joy of her movement—newly made in the moment with choreographer Caili Quan—Simpson is exploring camaraderie with her fellow company members. A collection of multifaceted artists, BalletX finds a place for each of its eleven gems to shine, and Simpson is, no doubt, a standout. With her loose hips and long limbs, Simpson’s nuanced­ articulation of an elbow and the carriage of her ribs illuminate a diverse dance background and a deep commitment.

Company: BalletX

Age: 25

Hometown: West Palm Beach, Florida

Training: School of Ballet Arts, A.W. Dreyfoos High School of the Arts, Ailey/Fordham BFA Program

Accolades: 2016 YoungArts honorable mention, 2022 Princess Grace honoraria

Training transparency: Simpson credits her engineer sister’s full ride to college as part of the complex web that made her advanced training possible. “College is expensive! I took a long look at the BFA statistics before really committing to dance,” she says, mentioning how grateful she is for her parents’ support. “I was lucky, and we worked it out with scholarships.”

Stage versus studio: “Everyone brings their A game,” says Simpson of her colleagues, crediting their energy in the BalletX rehearsal room with pushing her artistry and helping her get rid of studio nerves. “Even one new person watching can make me overthink. Onstage, I love not being able to see the audience—it’s freeing.” For artistic and executive director­ Christine Cox, the transformation is evident: “When the curtain goes up, Ashley turns into a creative force. She is at home on the stage, a true performer who really connects with audiences.”

If the shoe fits: Now in her third season with BalletX, Simpson is a Gaynor Minden artist who also loves a sneaker ballet—she’s excited to dance Justin Peck’s Become a Mountain for the season opener. Also on the program is a new slipper work, adapted for the stage from former company member Caili Quan’s early-pandemic film. Revamping her role has been a fun experiment, Simpson says.

Teaching and learning: Simpson teaches at Living Arts Dance in North Philadelphia and loves the challenge of “finding the words to help students see the steps in a new way.”

Fueling up: On her days off, you’ll find her at the farmers’ market or reading in the park. She has a Barnes & Noble habit and enjoys vegan cooking.

Beyond ballet: Simpson has danced in the In the Heights movie and in a Vogue event for New York Fashion Week. “These experiences have helped me look at dance differently. I don’t move like that in the day-to-day!” she says. “The film and fashion worlds taught me how movement lives in other environments.”