Two words come to mind when I think about Ashley Concannon, Multi-talented. Now that I think about it, that might be one word. Anyways, let me tell you a little bit about Ashley. She is a professional dancer for the Columbia City Ballet, and such a pleasure to watch. But, I know her best by one of her other talents. Ashley is also a photographer in the Columbia area that can do things with her camera that gets my own creative energy flowing.
I met Ashley through the ballet when I was shooting backstage at Peter Pan. I then reached out to her about starting a photographer club in the greater Columbia area. As luck would have it, Katharine Dalton was already starting one and she asked me to visit. I started going to the monthly meetings and as a result, developed a great friendship and respect for her and what she does. It is important to understand the concept of what a photographer is, as opposed to someone who takes pictures. A photographer has a creative vision that is different from the rest. Ashley has that vision. Her pictures of the ballet are completely different from mine. Completely different. So different that it gave us an opportunity a few months back.
The idea, was to backlit some of the dancers wearing bridal gowns at London and Lace. Ashley was using a wide angle lens, and I went for the close up. What ended up happening was two sides of beautiful. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that the photos were from two different shoots. What I also learned was a lesson that all photographers can benefit from, and that is we can all work together and lose this ugly competition that seems to surround us.
How long have you been doing ballet?
-I’ve taken classes since I was 3 years old, but I wasn’t passionate about ballet specifically till I was about 11.
Where did you start?
-I started in NJ at Center Stage Dance and Theatre Studio. I took or assisted all the ballet classes they offered, and the assisting paid for both mine and some of my sister’s classes. Then Susan Jaffe (former principle with American Ballet Theatre) opened a studio, Princeton Dance and Theatre, with a stronger focus on ballet. My teachers encouraged me to follow my dreams, even if it meant they would lose a dedicated student. I’m forever grateful for everything all my teachers have done for me.
What is it about the ballet that draws you to it?
-The dedication and commitment. You’ll never be “perfect”, so there’s always something to work on, something to fine tune. It’s rewarding to work so hard and to have that dedication recognized and appreciated on the stage.
Did you go to school for anything else?
-Nope. I got very lucky. Right out of high school, I was accepted into Orlando Ballet II, the second company. I worked in the morning at a bagel shop before class at 10am, then would rehearse till 6pm, or later if it was a performance week.
Is this what you wanted to do?
-Yup. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I know it’s not the most profitable career. I know sometimes the aches and pains are unbearable and my body won’t always cooperate as I’d like it to, but I’m living a dream I’ve dedicated most of my life to. It’s worth it to see the joy you bring to people’s lives, and to be able to take them on a journey, an escape from the real world.
Do you have any advice for any of the younger ones, (like my daughter) that want to pursue this as a career?
-Don’t give up. If there’s a will, there’s a way. You’ll be told no a million times before a yes, but those no’s will teach you to value that yes so much more. Also, never expect anything; be grateful for any and every opportunity.
That is some of the best advice that anyone can ever give anyone else. And it is true, you will be told no a million times, before anyone tells you yes. I know this first hand, because of photography. Everyone has an opinion, and sometimes it seems they are giving you no’s because someone gave them some. And, if you keep going, and you keep creating, you get to this point where you are not only successful, but you are also happy in what you do. You can tell that Ashley is happy with what she does because she has an incredible smile across her face when she dances on that stage. This should bring encouragement to everyone, because dreams can come true. They are not achieved easily. If they were, they wouldn’t be called dreams. This is why I think that Ashley Concannon is Good People.
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