Rachel Neville, Courtesy Complexions

How Ashley Mayeux Transformed Her Body to Handle the Ailey Rep

When Ashley Mayeux joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater last summer after four years with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, she was already a versatile mover accustomed to a demanding schedule.

But the career move came with several challenges. Here's how she's tackled them:

To get used to the rep:

"I had to take a lot more modern classes to get the grounded feeling back into my body," she says. "I had been doing a lot of contemporary work on and off pointe that required me to be more 'pulled up.' "

To build stamina:

Mayeux visits the gym for cardio workouts whenever her schedule allows, using the treadmill or elliptical for 30 minutes at a time.


To make it through long rehearsal days:

Mayeux is careful to pace herself: She never jumps into class or rehearsal without checking in with her body first. "I usually start my day out on the floor with layers and layers of warm-up clothes on," she says. She begins by stretching her quads and flexing and pointing her feet, then likes to do the "cat-cow" yoga exercise to warm up her core and spine. "I try to get my body lubricated before classes."

To keep her body healthy:

Once or twice a week, Mayeux has a company PT help her with her Achilles tendon—a common problem spot—by using manual therapy techniques to ensure her ankles are properly aligned and do not feel "jammed." She also stretches (mostly her hamstrings) and self-massages (mostly her calves) every night before bed to address any areas of tightness.

And when the company's on layoff? She heads home to Houston to take a break from dance, and spend time with her family and two English bulldogs, London and Rome.

Mayeux's bulldogs, London and Rome. Photo courtesy Mayeux

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5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.