Artist of the Month: Julia Asher

Artist of the Month: Julia Asher

Despite the five hour dance practice, smelly pointe shoes and constant exhaustion, Julia Asher’s love for dance will not fade. She has been dancing for over a decade and has big aspirations for her future. Asher shares her story and her hopes for her career in dance.

Asher first fell in love with dance when she saw the Nutcracker as a child for the first time. While watching, she was mesmerized by the elegance of the ballerinas and their intricate costumes. Asher will always look back at this event as the first time she knew ballet was her calling. “I saw the Nutcracker, and there is this gold scene where little Clara turns into big Clara. [She] did a pas-de-deux, and I think that’s when I knew that I wanted to be on stage and I wanted to do something similar.”

Asher has been training as a dancer since she was three years old. It started when her grandmother took her to a mommy-and-me dance class. She danced for another three years without any hope of it becoming her full-time sport. Everything changed at the age of seven, when her grandmother made a bold decision. “One day when my parents had left for a trip, my grandma, without their knowledge, took me to San Francisco Ballet auditions. She auditioned me and I got in, and she never told my parents that she had taken me to the audition until I had gotten in.” Asher’s grandmother was eager to pay for her dance and drive the commute to San Francisco everyday.

Asher now trains in ballet, lyrical and jazz making her busy schedule even busier with school, dance and studying. She practices everyday after school from 4 p.m. to around 9 p.m. and has a specific daily routine once she gets to her studio in Belmont. Her training starts with ballet for an hour and a half to warm up and get her muscles loose. “I take ballet everyday but that’s just because it is the basics. You need ballet in order to do anything else.” Next comes pointe. By now Asher’s feet are warm and ready to jump. Pointe is when dancers wear special pointe shoes that have a boxed toe so the dancer can stand directly on their toes and stay elevated. After pointe, the dancers either practice jazz, lyrical or modern depending on the day. Asher ends her lengthy training by practicing for her upcoming competitions.

There are many other factors that must go into dancing to succeed at a high level. Proper nutrition, sleep and downtime are necessary to have enough energy to practice for five hours a day. This strict routine often leads to many stereotypes around competitive dancers. Asher responded to a common misconception about the eating disorders that stem from being a competitive ballerina. The stereotype that ballerinas need to be stick-thin used to be a large issue dancers faced, but now ballerinas come in all shapes and sizes. “You can look at Misty Copeland, and she is not a normal ballerina at all. She has muscles and she’s not some tiny stick who looks like she’s going to break,” Asher said.

“Sometimes you just have those days where nothing works. You can’t turn, you can’t jump and you just feel awful but [dancing] makes the better days so much better.””

— Julia Asher

Dancers have to be incredibly strong to gracefully perform in competitions and recitals. Asher brings a lot of energy bars to dance practice and eats them throughout the afternoon to keep her energy up. She also drinks high calorie shakes before practice. Asher would not be able to dance as frequently as she does without taking care of her body.

The hours, commute, practice and competitions for dance are not all for nothing — she has high hopes for her future in dance. Asher plans on majoring in dance while in college at a prestigious dance school at University of Michigan, USC or NYU. All of these colleges are known nationwide for having competitive dance programs and providing excellent educations: “For the schools I am looking at, you have to have really good grades, and you have to be a great dancer so I wanted to take challenging classes.” Asher takes as many advanced classes as she can while still being able to balance her rigorous dance schedule. After college, Asher hopes to be recruited by a dance company that will tour around the world.

Although dance is the one thing Asher loves most in life, there are negative aspects. Every athlete has days where everything seems to be going wrong, and dancing is no exception. “Sometimes you just have those days where nothing works. You can’t turn, you can’t jump and you just feel awful but it makes the better days so much better.” Asher has achieved so much in dance and passed countless milestones all because of her positive attitude and supportive team. Her appreciation for dance comes from her professional dance teachers who push the dancers everyday and help them reach the next level, even on their rough days. “As my teacher says, ‘You are only as good as your worst day.’” The relationships that have formed from her dance community have encouraged Asher to push through the hard days and keep dancing because of the unwavering support.

Dance, being an emotional and beautiful form of movement and art, holds a lot of meaning for those who participate. So what purpose does dance hold for Asher in particular? Dance is Asher’s therapy, her stress relief and her passion. “If I have had a really hard day, I know I can go to dance and just let it go and not think about it. It is therapeutic and makes me happy,” she said. Humans are creatures of habit and feel most comfortable with routine and predictability. Asher explained how she often get anxious and restless if she goes more than a week without dancing. Dancing is a huge part of her comfort zone and happiness, so a life without dance is not a life Asher wants to live. “It is just so embedded in everything I’ve done so far, and I couldn’t ever imagine my life without it. I honestly don’t know what I would do without dance.”