Q&A with Ballerina Zoë Ashe-Browne
Q1 :: Hi Zoe! First off, what inspired you to follow your dreams and become a professional Ballerina?
I don't think it was any particular defining moment that made me want to be a dancer. It was a gradual feeling that developed over years during my training. I think it was quite a superficial feeling initially, I had a natural physical ability for it and so my grades were high from a young age which gave me confidence. I think finding something I was talented at gave me a sense of purpose very young and that feeling became addictive. It was only later in my teenage years I realized how much work was involved in getting to the next level and I think watching a lot of DVDs of ballet stars was probably one of the key factors in me getting the dance bug.
Q2 :: Have you ever felt that this dream of yours was out of reach? How did stay focused?
Yes. I've had a few moments during my training and career where Ive almost given up completely. I think you have to have a very thick skin for this industry to be able to come in everyday and rise above the tiredness, politics, favoritism, the lack of fairness and the anxiety that is prevalent in our industry. Unfortunately a thick skin is something I lack and need to work on. It's the same with any high intensity, competitive profession, artistic or otherwise. I don't really appreciate the term 'giving up' though, I think people just get to a stage where they choose to move on and in many cases that is often the braver choice than sticking to what you know and being continuously dissatisfied by not moving on.
Q3 :: What or who inspires you?
Well there are many incredible dancers and choreographers that inspire me. Cynthia Harvey, Marienella Nunez, Bryan Arias, Jiri Kylian. These are all names that might mean nothing to a non dancer, but they are incredible artists who have inspired me at some point in my life and even had the power to take my breath away with their expressive outlet. I am also inspired by people in other artistic professions. I love watching an Irish girl like Soairse Ronan take on Hollywood the way she is, we have so much artistic talent originating from our extraordinary little island which is something we should all be proud of in Ireland. I'm constantly inspired by my parents too, they've experienced a lot in their lives and their strength and eternal optimism is something I really admire.
Q4 :: Why do you think it’s important for people to outline their dreams and attempt to follow them?
Dreams are extremely important, of course and everyone should have one. But it's important to manage and be realistic with what you're capable of within that dream. I don't want to come across as a pessimist, but In my profession I see so many people bash their heads against brick walls in attempt to make their dreams a reality and it has the opposite of the desired effect. They're poor, unemployed, depressed, under confident, but because our generation are told to 'follow our dreams' we think we have to keep going even if this dream is making us miserable. Ballet is not for everyone and unfortunately it isn't the type of thing you can just put hard work in to to achieve, a lot needs to be natural. What I'm saying is it's important to follow your dreams but not at the expense of yourself. For me it seems vital to find something you love, something that nourishes your soul and gives you purpose. You should never doubt yourself in life or listen to unfair criticism, but if something isn't working for you then change the game plan. Life and passion is adaptable. It's important to love and respect yourself and if you possess an optimistic life philosophy you will follow the ultimate dream which for me is to live a life filled with happiness and satisfaction.
Q5 :: What’s the best part about being a professional Ballerina?
Performing in a good piece or production. It's an indescribable feeling. Touring can also be the best and worst part of the job, it's tough but it's always the time you make wonderful memories and you get to see many corners of the world. If you're in a company full of great people you also end up having such a laugh in the studio and that will probably be the thing I missed most when it's all over.
Q6 :: Looking back on your career to date, is there anything you would have done differently?
I don't like having regrets because everything I did was a reaction to the current situation at that moment and I've always been a person that follows their gut. But, if I could change anything I would talk to my 17 year old self before I went into a 2 year battle with anorexia and I'd tell that 17 year old that she isn't the crazy one.. These old teachers with life long issues are passing on the torch and you are beautiful as you are, you are definitely not fat. However, it's important to reflect on every experience you've had good and bad, as it teaches you more about yourself and could potentially give you tools to help others in the future.
Q7 :: What advice would you give others who want to follow their dreams but don’t know where to start?
I would tell anyone with dreams and aspirations that if this is what you want in life then you must try otherwise you will never know. Do research, the Internet is vast and it is good to have an idea of what is required in order to achieve. Always appear confident even if you don't feel it. People with confidence will always come across as more appealing to someone who might want to invest in you. Don't be afraid to ask people in your desired field for advice. I've had many Irish dancers contact me on Facebook to ask advice on auditioning or job searching and I am never bothered by it. In fact, it's flattering if anyone ever wants your advice. Lastly, always remind yourself why you're striving for your dream especially when the road gets tough. Sometimes you need a single thought to bring you back to your original motives and that can be very reassuring when things get difficult.