We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashley Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashley, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I pursued an artistic career because dance gave me so much as a student, creator and a performer, I wanted to give that back to my community. I fell in love with dance in 8th grade. My childhood was a rollercoaster and at that time of my life I needed a way to express myself and build confidence… Soon I learned this craft was personal. I knew this was something that as long as I put the work in, I could grow in any capacity. The more I grew in foundation, the more I could play as an artist. This craft was therapeutic in a sense that no matter how out of control my life used to be, or felt in the present, I could come into the studio and be consistent in working on my soul and my body everyday. As a teacher & choreographer I want to share that experience with my students every day.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Dance Educator and Choreographer located in Houston, TX after receiving her Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts from McNeese State University; where she performed on Scholarship with the MSU Dance Team. She was a 2 year Professional Member of WYLDSTYL Dance Crew out of Soundbox Houston. While dancing with WYLDSTYL, Ashley and her Company gained the title of World of Dance Champions in 2014. In 2017 she competed internationally with WYLDSTYL at Dancers Paradise; taking 5th Place amongst dancers from all over the world. Since Joining WYLDSTYL she has performed works from choreographers such as: Andrew Nguyen, Cierra Lauren, Erin Peyrani, Aaron Medina, Holly Austin, Jaike Baldwin & Thy Nguyen.
She has performed in venues such as : Warehouse Live for World of Dance Houston, Cancun Dancers Paradise Plaza, New Orleans Superdome, LSU Tiger Stadium, Televised NCAA Sporting Events, & “The Grand” Historic Opera House.
As a teacher and choreographer; Ashley has traveled from state to state serving competitive studios, dance teams and youth companies. She has been a faculty member of the following companies: Crowd Pleasers Dance, Lake Area Ballet Theatre, Cathy Kurth Dance Academy, The PAC Dance Studio, Contempo Dance Center & a Guest Teacher and Adjudicator for Ascension Dance Company.
She has been the Director and Choreographer for 2 Conceptual Videos, one in 2015 and another in 2019
She was hired as the youngest Director and Choreographer serving in the National Indoor Football League in 2012.
Ashley Johnson served as a Head Director for Public High School Teams for 6 years, receiving multiple awards and accomplishments for Instruction and Choreography. She has been recognized as a TOP 50 Teacher across Public, Charter, and Private schools in Galveston County and is a 6 year member of TDEA. In 2020 she left Public School Directing and started her own freelance brand AJ CREATIVE MOVEMENT. She continues to Teach, Judge and Choreograph across the states to serve dancers…..
I think what sets me apart from other Dance Educators and Choreographers is my journey and how it relates to my teaching. Since I didn’t truly start my dance training until 8th grade I was very raw. I had to figure out the most efficient way to catch up and surpass my peers in training. In doing so, I found ways to communicate that I think is different from other teachers. I focus on how everything feels in your body, how does the right way feel vs the wrong way rather than just critique with terminology or visuals alone. I find ways for dancers to work WITH their body, not against it. Everyone in my class feels pushed yet also knows it’s a safe space to laugh, build relationships, and make plenty of mistakes to improve.
I also suffered an injury in 2015 that impacted my thought process as a teacher. I tore my ACL and had to get it completely reconstructed with a patella tendon graph. This was a very hard year for me because every day was a constant reminder that I was hindered as a teacher and choreographer. However the silver lining is I began to think like a physical therapist since I had learned so much through my rehabilitation. I find what muscle groups are the problem, if there is enough range of motion or strength to execute movement efficiently and then fix the problem.
I have worked with students from multiple socio economic backgrounds & skillsets from very high to low. It is easy to put choreography on advanced dancers that have the resources and years of training under
their belts, of course they are going to look amazing; but giving those dancers that start off raw like myself and making them memorable is a huge challenge. I spent 6 years Directing lower income dance programs. It was some of the most rewarding years of my life. We were able to compete and outscore teams that had all of the studio training, all of the outside choreography, all of the money for costumes. Through pure hard work dedication, and Creative Movement we were able to create a legacy. On the flip side I have also served as a lead instructor and choreographer to the advanced students with resources for many years; and we were also able to create beautiful things. To be a good choreographer and teacher is to not only push dancers with your style, but give them movement that compliments them. You walk into work everyday never knowing how you are about to move, thats the excitement of it all. I am proud to be a teacher that can make any dancer their best, from raw to refined, I can push them all.
In terms of choreography I think what sets me a part is that I will never choreograph for a score sheet. I want to choreograph pieces that are memorable to the dancers and the audience. My extensive Hip Hop training makes my movement heavy in dynamics & my passion for music drives my ear. I appreciate so much the details that a musician adds to their music; I always try to bring it out in my choreography. If we can avoid choreographing for a score sheet, and more towards the art, yet still be successful.. thats the best piece.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Make sure you enjoy some Blue Margaritas at El Patio on Westeimer. The tasty margs and mariachi band will have you singing all night!
If you are wanting to take a dance class, Soundbox Studios is your one stop shop with all styles on deck. If you are into dive bars, Leon’s on Fannin Street is the perfect low lit, double pouring only establishment.
Looking for Crawfish and a party in the same place? Look up Voodoo Mommas Food Truck online to see which party location they will be at! Good people, funky music, amazing crawfish! They are usually at Voodoo Queen Daiquiri Dive which is a fun spot!
If you are into live music The Big Easy or Continental Club is great to chill and listen to some good soul music.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a shoutout to my Mother, Kelly Johnson. I honestly do not know where I would be without her in my life. She is a self made woman, with a record breaking career in the Creative Hair Industry. With over 35 years behind the chair, performance experience with Matrix, Xenon International & Farouk Systems, she is the top color specialist in the Houston Area. Her menor, Xenon, was known as “The Hairdresser of Hairdressers”. Since I was little I watched her overcome so much while being an amazing single mother of 2 AND a successful business owner. Throughout my entire life she has always taught me to never quit, to work hard and play harder, and to know what I deserve inside and outside my work. Since I have established my own brand AJ Creative Movement, she has been the best support system and guide. She is a constant light to everyone she meets and always is a reminder to be fabulous and never apologize for it. You can visit her now at Aisling’s Salon in Baytown where she has lifelong clients and years of success. I love you mom.
Also Shoutout to my amazing Husband, Travis Smith, thank you for helping me be fearless. I love you.
Other: VIMEO https://vimeo.com/ashleyejohnsondance
Photographer: Natalie Donofrio