Last year, after six seasons in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre, California-born Ashley Ellis made one of the biggest decisions of her life: She moved to Spain to join ABT principal Angel Corella’s new company, Corella Ballet, as a soloist. We caught up with Ashley to find out more about Corella’s skills as a director and how her Spanish is coming along. —Margaret Fuhrer
Dance Spirit: What’s it like to be part of a brand-new company?
Ashley Ellis: When you’re involved with a group from the beginning, you feel like you’re playing a large role in the process. And it’s totally unlike being in an established company because everybody’s new, so everybody’s learning the ropes.
DS: This is Angel Corella’s first time directing a company. How is he as a director?
AE: When I first heard that Angel was starting his own company, I liked that his primary goal was to create a healthy, focused, positive environment. He’s a super-nice guy, and he has a great energy—you can see it onstage!—that I think makes him a natural leader.
DS: How did you end up with Corella Ballet?
AE: I thought moving from California to NYC was a big leap—I never dreamed I’d move to Europe! When the offer came, I’d been dancing with ABT in NYC for six years, and even though it’s an amazing company, I was ready for a change.
DS: What’s it like adjusting to a new culture? Have you learned Spanish?
AE: I’d speak Spanish a lot better if English weren’t our “common denominator” language in the studio—but I ‘m learning. The toughest adjustment was realizing how long I’d be away from my family. I didn’t get to go home for almost a year!
DS: What has been your best moment with CB so far?
AE: There isn’t a single moment; it’s a feeling. The company members spend so much time together that we’ve become a family. These people inspire me and make the separation from my actual family easier to take.
DS: What is your advice to dancers who hope to join an overseas company?
AE: Keep your options open! You never know when an opportunity to dance with a group like CB might come up. And it’s worth it. You learn so much living abroad, experiencing different cultures and languages and places. It really opens your eyes.