Meet the Artist, Ashley Durst!
Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play is a musical with the story being told through songs and dances. Choreographer Ashley Durst created the dances for the show. Ms. Durst has served as a choreographer for many shows including a production of the musical CATS, Omaha Dance Project productions, Creighton University dance concerts, and other Omaha dance studio performances. This is her first time working as a choreographer for The Rose Theater. We asked Ashley to tell us more about her work and her dance moves for the show!
Q: Can you explain to us what a choreographer does?
A: A choreographer brings a story to life by using movement. To me, the choreography is the link between the music and the script. The choreography should help propel the story and add to the music in the show. A choreographer also creates movement that the audience will enjoy and hopefully be able to relate to.
Q: What are the first steps you take when creating choreography for a show like Elephant & Piggie?
A: Before choreographing any show it’s important to study and research the show and perhaps the time period. This includes reading the script and listening to the music. Knowing the characters in the show and how they act help me, as a choreographer create dance steps that are similar to each characters personality. It’s important for me to know the show well in order to start visioning how to choreograph dance steps and movement for the actors.
Q: Many choreographers are also dancers. When did you begin dancing? What are your favorite dance styles?
A: I began dancing at the age of three. At first I had no interest in dance, but once I stepped on stage I found a love for performing- I loved the stage. After my first dance recital I was hooked. My favorite style to teach is ballet but my favorite style to choreograph is jazz because it is fun and upbeat. I like musical theater as well because you can incorporate facial expressions and acting which makes the choreographic process a lot of fun.
Q: Besides being a dancer, what other skills do you need to be a choreographer? Did you need any special training for your career?
A: I think choreographing takes experience. I received my Masters in Teaching Dance at the University level and during that time I took courses on choreography. I learned how to listen to music and to create patterns and transitions on stage that are captivating to the audience. Even after training I’m still learning new things as a choreographer. I find that I am getting better and faster at choreographing the more I choreograph and teach dance. As a choreographer you need to have an open mind and have good communication skills as you have to be able explain your vision and what you want from the dancer. This takes times and develops the more experience you have choreographing.
Q: Is there anything that you hope dancers will notice about your choreography for Elephant & Piggie?
A: My goal is to create different, yet fun dance steps. I hope the audience enjoys the choreography and stays interested in the dancing. I like to choreograph fun patterns on the stage that keep moving and keep the audience entertained.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a choreographer? What makes it challenging?
A: To me, choreographing is like creating your own canvas. You get to bring a vision to life through movement. I enjoy choreographing because there are many ways to be creative and different. The challenge I face is setting choreography to dancers with limited amount of training or certain limitations. The goal is to make the dancers look good and give them something they can do well. I love choreographing and always look forward to seeing the final outcome.