Ashlee Dupre - NY-based Musical Theatre Freelance Artist

Ashlee Dupre performing in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out
I spent years training in famed institutions like the School of American Ballet and the Kirov Academy of Ballet (KAB) and beyond. As time has passed, many of my friends, peers, and colleagues have gone on to dance from major ballet companies to contemporary projects to So You Think You Can Dance. Oddly enough, very few of my friends have crossed over into the genre of musical theatre. One exception to that rule would be my friend and former KAB classmate, Ashlee Dupre. As a ballet student, Ashlee had these amazingly steely muscles that propelled her dancing. Something else I learned while training with her was that she also had a huge personality. I have only seen Ashlee dance one time since we graduated from KAB. In 2006, we were both hired to dance in First State Ballet Theatre's annual (and now defunct) Arabesque Festival. We didn't know that we were both hired to perform in this gala until we showed up onstage. Even though we have only seen each other this one time since school, we have always kept up with each other on Facebook. Ashlee is currently working in the Off-Broadway smash-hit Silence! The Musical. Read on to hear what it is like to freelance in the New York musical theatre scene.

Ashlee Dupre
I started dancing at a young age. My mother owned a dance studio. At 13, I was accepted into the Kirov Academy of Ballet, where I finished out all of high school. Right after finishing school, I booked my first job with Colorado Ballet as a corps de ballet member. During my time with the company, I realized that I wasn’t very happy doing just ballet. I felt limited in my movement. I decided to move to NYC the following year. 
Ashlee performing at the Kirov Academy of Ballet

While living in the city, I continued auditioning for various ballet companies. In an audition for Vienna Staatsoper Ballet, out of 200 women I made it to the final four. Alas, I did not make it into the company. Soon after, I became interested in musical theater. My sister got me into it. She encouraged me to audition for the national tour of Movin' Out, Twyla Tharp's musical. 

I had seen the show on Broadway and fell in love with it. Elizabeth Parkinson originated the female lead. She is my idol! The audition process was soooooo long. I seemed to be doing great, though. In the auditions for the show, Twyla would use me to demonstrate combinations. There were about 4 callbacks. In the final one, she announced the cast and I was a part of it!
Ashlee w/Adam Dulin-Tavares in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out
My role was in the ensemble, but I also understudied both female principal roles. During the 2nd year of the tour, I was promoted to play both principal roles (Brenda 4x a week and Judy 2x a week) in our shows. I can honestly say, if my career ended today, I would be satisfied because I danced my dream role, Brenda! 

When the tour closed, I got back to auditioning and soon landed a role in a new musical choreographed and directed by Lynne Taylor Corbett in China. That’s when I joined the union, Actors Equity. I had speaking lines and had to sing in the production. I found out that I could sing, which opened doors for me. When I returned to NY, of course, I had to continue auditioning. I also started taking voice lessons. I would go to every audition on the Actors Equity website that I could possibly do. I finally got another job, Phantom of the Opera, in Las Vegas. That was incredibly exciting! I felt like I could actually make a career for myself in musical theater. 

It was tough living in Vegas. Even though I was working, I still had to look for my next gig. That’s the thing with musical theater, your job can end before it even begins. I am constantly auditioning. I would fly back and forth from Vegas to NY for invited calls. When Phantom finished I was back in NY. I went to Elizabeth Parkinson and Scott Wise's musical theater summer program as a chaperone, but was able to take all of the classes offered. It was such a wonderful opportunity because I got to network with some amazing people. And I landed my next gig, Where’s Charley?, in the Encores! program at City Center because of it. I was the featured dancer in the program. I LIVED!!! 

A couple months after that ended, I received a Facebook message to join the cast of Silence! The Musical. And here I am today, a working dancer, singer,  and actress in NYC. It is incredibly hard to be a part of this business. It takes a toll on your emotions and body. But in the end, it's absolutely worth it. I learn new things everyday and I'm so grateful to be where I am today.

Ashlee's Advice for Freelancers: "Networking is one of the many challenges of a freelance dancer. It is so important. I have found that half the gigs I have ever done were because someone recommended me. Always be kind and open, you never know who you're talking to or who's listening. Of course, stay true to yourself."

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