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