Destiny’s other child
Local dancer Ashley Everett gets her globetrot on with Beyoncé
It had been just two days since 18- year-old dancer Ashley Everett came off the road to take a week-long break after touring for five hectic and exciting months with Beyoncé Knowles on her latest world tour. Yeah, the Beyoncé.
It was 10 a.m. and Everett was due downstairs at any moment to join us on the couch in the dance studio of her parents’ spacious, comfortable east Chico home also shared by her 20-year-old brother, Michael. Everett’s father, Dave, offered coffee and the latest Beyoncé videos (featuring his daughter, of course) while we waited. Her mother, Chris, a former dancer herself, bustled gracefully around tending to things on another floor of the airy, multi-level, Architectural Digest-worthy house where dozens of framed photographs and a happy vibe still lingered from the “Welcome Home, Ashley” party two nights earlier.
“This one’s called ‘Green Light,’ “ Papa Everett announced calmly, clearly accustomed to being a good representative for his drop-dead-lovely and talented daughter. Eight-by-10 glossy photos from nearly 16 years of dancing adorned the walls of the studio built especially for her.
On the large television screen before us, Beyoncé busted it out—hotter than hot—flanked by two equally sexy dancers (yes, that is possible) in tiny, tight, black vinyl dresses and, at one point, insanely high heels, holding keyboards to their shoulders the way Buckingham Palace guards hold their guns. The incongruously erotic air of regiment mixed with abandon coming from the video was impossible to miss.
“That’s Ashley on the left,” her father said proudly, pointing out his supremely poised and sophisticated-looking daughter, her hair drawn tightly into the classic ballet dancer’s chignon.
“Good morning,” came the gentle female voice approaching from behind.
Standing 5-foot-8, Ashley Everett cut a lithe, naturally beautiful figure. Her springy brown hair was loose and long. She was dressed down in sweats and wore no makeup as she joined the conversation, endearingly rubbing the last little bit of sleep from her golden-brown eyes.
Everett was quick to reveal, in her warm, pleasantly chatty way, the inside story on how the “Green Light” dancers managed to even stand on those wickedly high-heeled dance shoes. They didn’t. They were either holding onto the overhead bar not seen in the video to help them stand up, or just their feet were being filmed.
Ah, the benefits of hangin’ with a Beyoncé dancer.
How exactly did this Chico native become one of only 10 dancers to perform with one of the most famous singers in the world right now?
Well, there’s Everett’s long history of dancing and being in the limelight—she started taking ballet lessons at age 2, then gymnastics at age 6.
“My parents put me in [ballet and gymnastics], but I liked it,” she affirmed.
Everett even played soccer for a year, but quit when she was asked to be on a traveling team: “I told them, ‘No, I just wanna dance.’ I try to just follow my heart.”
The many photo albums shelved all over the Everett home are filled with scores of mementos that her mother has meticulously collected and arranged to celebrate Ashley’s dance career so far—photos and newspaper articles from her years with Chico Ballet and Full Force Hip-Hop & Jazz Co. (both part of Chico Creek Dance Centre), the health magazine containing the Knudsen’s ad she modeled for at age 10—even her acceptance letter to Professional Children’s School in New York City, which she attended during her last two years of high school (she and her mother moved to New York so she could go to school there).
But it’s her award for “Most Well-Rounded Dancer” from San Jose’s Urban Jamm Dance Convention, during her fourth year on the Full Force team, that she’s most proud of.
“That was a huge accomplishment for me,” Everett reflected. “At that point, I was learning to compete. I was technically trained, but I was also a combination of ballet and hip-hop dancer. I like the fact that I am trained.”
Beyoncé and her crew are known to hire only trained dancers.
“I was going to the vending machine to get a cookie,” Everett described rather matter-of-factly, yet somewhat shyly, about her first run-in with Beyoncé's choreographer, Frank Gatson. At the time, last year, she was attending classes at the prestigious Ailey School in New York City.
“Her choreographer just came up to me and started talking to me. I thought maybe he was, um, you know, trying to pick up on me,” said Everett. “Then he asked me for a résumé and a head shot.”
Everett was invited to watch Beyoncé's rehearsal for the annual Fashion Rocks concert at Ailey that day, which she did. She gave Gatson her contact information and never heard from him.[page]
It was two months later when Everett decided to skip a class at Ailey to audition for Beyoncé's upcoming “The Beyoncé Experience” world tour.
“It was mid-January. It was freezing. There was a long line,” Everett recalled of the approximately 3,500 people wrapped around several blocks of Manhattan. “But I cut. If I’d gone to the back of the line, I wouldn’t have gotten in. I waited three hours in the freezing cold.”
At the audition she again ran into Gatson, who recognized her.
“In a room full of hundreds of girls,” Everett remembered, “he said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ He pointed me out to everybody. It was good that he recognized me.”
Five girls from the whole day of auditions, Everett included, were asked to stay to learn the choreography for Beyoncé's “Déjà Vu,” which they performed for her and her entourage later that day.
A couple of weeks later, Everett got the call from Gatson that they wanted her on Beyoncé's tour. She would have to leave her classes to fly to Los Angeles in February for 10 days to rehearse from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day in order to learn all the choreography from four or five of Beyoncé's videos.
“I ended up in two videos. I wasn’t complaining.”
Everett was one of four new dancers hired for Beyoncé's world tour, which opened in April in Tokyo in front of 40,000 people—the largest audience of the whole tour.
“It was a hot mess! The show was a mess! It probably didn’t look like it, but the props, the costumes, the music, everything got messed up,” said Everett. “Beyoncé had to sing a cappella at one point. It’s hard to dance with no music!”
Beyoncé's wildly successful tour was recently extended to continue through Dec. 30 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. Everett turned down her acceptance as a freshman at Juilliard this fall so she could continue the tour.
For her part, Everett seems to be able to do whatever she decides to. She hopes to be able to attend Juilliard in the future. She has some loftier goals, too.
“I really want to be a star in a movie. Well, maybe not even a star, just have a pretty good role.”
Chelsea Beights, a 19-year-old sophomore at Chico State who met Everett five years ago when they danced together in Full Force, knows Ashley can do whatever she puts her mind to.
“Professionally, what I love about her is how humble she is, about everything she does. She never brags,” Beights said. “And the reason she’s my best friend is because she’s such a good friend. She’s such a great person. I’m right there with her parents, supporting her and wishing her the best of luck.”