Happy World Photography Day!

August 19th: World Photography Day!

I stumbled across a blog post today proclaiming that it was World Photography Day! I had no idea that this day existed, but let’s be real, there’s a day for celebration for just about anything now! Over the last year I’ve gotten really into photography and would love to share some of my images with you. Most of these are in the U.S because I haven’t traveled out of the country of recent, but nonetheless I am happy with some of these captures and hope you will enjoy my little gallery as well ๐Ÿ™‚

This is purely a culmination of pictures taken over the past year, nothing too exciting, but I found a love for photography along the way:

The Bean - Chicago
The Bean – Chicago
City Lights - Chicago
City Lights – Chicago
Sunset - Thunder Bay, Canada
Sunset – Thunder Bay, Canada
Sculpture Park - Des Moines
Sculpture Park – Des Moines
Sunset - Rochester
Sunset – Rochester
Bridge - Saint Paul
Bridge – Saint Paul
Downtown Sunrise - Rochester
Downtown Sunrise – Rochester
Downtown - Rochester
Downtown – Rochester

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” -Elliott Erwitt

Sunset - Duluth
Sunset – Duluth
Windmill City - Iowa
Windmill City – Iowa
Lift Bridge - Duluth
Lift Bridge – Duluth
Boats - Capri, Italy (photo by my mom)
Boats – Capri, Italy (photo by my mom)
St. Louis County Court House - Duluth
St. Louis County Court House – Duluth
Fall Colors - Duluth
Fall Colors – Duluth
Sunset - Florida
Sunset – Florida
Chester Creek Park - Duluth
Chester Creek Park – Duluth
Blurred Lights - Downtown Saint Paul
Blurred Lights – Downtown Saint Paul
University of Iowa - Iowa City
University of Iowa – Iowa City
Skyline View - Minneapolis
Skyline View – Minneapolis
Lift Bridge (2) - Duluth
Lift Bridge (2) – Duluth
Lake Superior - Duluth
Lake Superior – Duluth
Sunset - Minnesota
Sunset – Minnesota
Sunset - Fort Dodge, Iowa
Sunset – Fort Dodge, Iowa

A Year Goes By, Everything Can Change

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetIf you asked me on this day a year ago where I would be on the upcoming Sunday, the following week, the 10th of October or even on the 6th of March the following year, I would have told you, without a doubt, Iowa City at the University of Iowa. I would be either in my dorm room, the studio or in a classroom working on both a mathematics and a dance degree. A year can change a lot. A day can change a lot. A moment can change everything!

A year ago, today, my life took what I would definitely call the greatest turn thus far!

Flashback to Thursday, August 14th, 2014:
I had just spent about a week discussing details with some of my greatest mentors and family members trying to figure out if I could actually make following my dreams a reality. That afternoon, Thursday, August 14th was spent dancing on a local stage at our weekly ‘Thursday’s on First’ event. I was dancing at what I feel has been my best thus far and fully enjoyed myself that day not knowing what news was to come. I had the usual pre-performance jitters and post-performance happiness!

IMG_7379Once the performance was over, I stepped off the stage and went over to my teachers for the usual hugs and ‘good jobs’ and ‘thank yous’ for the opportunities given over the past couple of weeks. They then turned to me and said “Unfortunately Ashley, we have some bad news…” *insert my sad face here* “We’ve heard back and you have the opportunity to head up to Duluth on Monday and ‘audition’ to train with the company this season!” *insert completely changed face here included with about a million ‘thank yous’ and hugs*

From that life changing (is that taking it too far??) moment forward my life took a Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetcompletely different path. Sunday, August 17th, instead of moving by myself into Iowa’s honors dorm, I traveled up to Duluth for the first time accompanied by my mom. The following week I was expecting to attend a pre-freshman-year Honors Program. Instead, I spent the week in rainy Duluth auditioning to train with the Minnesota Ballet for the 2014-2015 season. The week after that instead of starting my first week of official classes at the University of Iowa I spent my week reevaluating what I had spent the last couple of weeks packing, to prepare for an apartment instead of a teeny tiny dorm room. By October 10th I had been in my first apartment on my own for just over a month, taking two ballet classes almost every day, spending almost 12 hours in the studio daily and rehearsing for my first show as a corps de ballet member of a professional company: “The Nutcracker.” When March 6th of this year rolled around I had moved, again, to Bloomington, to be an official member of my first ballet company, and we were preparing for “Swan Lake”, my first ballet as a member of a company.

A year ago,ย  I thought that today I would be preparing for my sophomore year of Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetcollege, but instead I am so much happier preparing for my 1st full season with Continental Ballet Company and my first year teaching here. I can not thank everyone who has supported me, enough, because I know that I am happier on the path I am on now. Without all of you I know that I wouldn’t have made it this far on my ballet journey. I am blessed on what all I have experienced this past year, and how much I have learned and grown. I have made some absolutely amazing friends and I know that these are friendships that will last a lifetime. A moment can change everything, and luckily for me it was for the better, 110% โค

Home is Wherever I’m With You

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
Maya Angelou

Home. Most people view home as a place. Some people, once they move out for the first time, say that home is a feeling. I have decided that home is all about the people that surround you.

I went back to my childhood home in Rochester, MN, for a mere 40 hrs Wednesday night to Friday mid-afternoon. My main purpose was to dance, but I also tried to see as many people as I could within that time. Only about 9 hours of my time was spent sleeping (over two nights…oops!), 11 were spent in the studio and the rest were spent with people.

Physically speaking, when I was ‘home’ and in my room it didn’t feel quite right.

The cutest. The best.
The cutest. The best.

My room doesn’t feel like my room anymore. Aside from my bed, there is nothing really there that makes me feel I belong for more than a few hours. Pretty soon, come fall, my bed will be gone too and it really will not feel right. My kitchen table was where I spent most of my time. Talking with my parents. That felt like home. A safe place. A comforting place. A loving place. But move a month back and bring me to Iowa (the last time I went ‘home’), where I was with my grandparents, uncle, his friend and my cousins, along with my parents and sister…that also felt like home. That was where my family talked and caught up on life. It was comforting and loving and safe because of the comforting and loving people that I was with.

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Ballet without them? What’s the pointe?

The studio is also my home. Ballet Blake. Daniel Blake. Julie Blake. Children’s Dance Theatre. Sheila Sullivan. The CDT Board. CDT dancers. Continental Ballet. Riet Velthuisen. The company dancers. All of these places; all of these people; I have known for as little as eight months up to only three years. I grew up dancing other places, but these places have become my ballet homes. When I am surrounded with these people I have a warm feeling in my heart that I am where I belong for at least a little while.

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Ballet homes are the best homes because it is where you are truly free to let go of it all

Two of my favorite people that I got to know up in Duluth were in Rochester for those 40 hours as well. They support me and love me and have helped me follow my dreams. No matter where or how often I see them I know that my heart is at home.

Old picture with my fave DQ workers ๐Ÿ™‚

I also had the pleasure of seeing some of my best friends, and past coworkers, and my favorite little kiddos. Add that onto the list of my dance teachers, and parents and biggest supporters and I know that “Home is wherever I’m with you.” [Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes] My ‘you’ is a long list of people and for that I am so very grateful.

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One can’t not love these two โค

I feel at home in many places these days, whether it be Duluth, Rochester, Saint Paul, sometimes Iowa, and sometimes it only takes a coffee shop. The place isn’t what matters. It’s the people that help build me up, and make me feel happy. The people who I can love and support right back that help me know thatย  I am where I belong.

Letting Go and Just Dancing

Dance is emotionally draining. Always. Some times more than others, and some times in the exact way that you need it to be.

Staring at yourself in a mirror from 30 minutes up to half of your day, picking apart everything that needs to be fixed, sometimes noticing improvement or lines and positions that you feel good about. That takes a lot out of person. It can be frustrating and provoke sadness, yet at the same time being able to release and feel and portray all of these emotions at one time is the greatest gift that we have as dancers. We can leave it all on the stage and feel outstanding at the end of the day.

Some days that emotional release is exactly what I need. I just need to get in the studio, with no particular goal in mind and just dance. Be free. Let everything go. It may not fix everything (or really anything), but at least I will feel good for a little while ๐Ÿ™‚