In honor of National Dance Week, we’d like to take a moment to recognize Ashley Hilton, our Dance Administrative Supervisor extraordinaire!
In addition to knowing almost every ballet parent by name, coordinating recitals, professional ballet productions and summer intensives, and teaching classes, Ashley also spends a good deal of her time on the phone answering questions for parents interested in our programs.
“When we started [Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet], I remember reaching 100 students and we were so excited. Now we have over 300 kids in the program,” said Ashley. “I spend a lot of time on the phone with parents with tons of questions about housing and education, and all their options.”
She says, with the growth of Next Generation Ballet, she’s fielding calls from parents around the country, and even other countries, who are considering bringing their children here for full-time training. It’s a major decision, and naturally, they have lots of valid questions and concerns.
“I enjoy it because I think our program is a great place for their kids to train, I just wish I had more time in the day,” she laughed.
Ashley graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.F.A in Dance Performance and a minor in Business. She teaches Preparatory and Level 1A for the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet.
|Ashley was featured in Dance Magazine for her|
work with students at Metropolitan Minitries.
She also teaches ballet for the Conservatory at the Metropolitan Ministries partnership school, a Hillsborough County school for homeless and at risk students.
“It’s one of the highlights of my week because the kids are so happy to see me,” said Ashley. “You can see the joy in their faces. They’re so excited. They love the attention, I think.”
The kids in those classes come from a largely transient community and have been through a lot, says Ashley. They seem to appreciate the consistency and structure of their weekly ballet class.
“I set high expectations for them, and they rise to it,” said Ashley. She takes her curriculum from her Conservatory classes and adapts it to get in as much as possible in a shorter amount of time at her Metropolitan Ministries classes.
|Students from Metropolitan Ministries|
outreach class at last year's showcase.
The kids come in their streetwear, no tights or leotards, and do the same floor barre and center work as in Ashley’s Conservatory classes. They work hard and are rewarded with a game of freeze dance at the end of each class.
Her Metropolitan Ministries classes will be performing in a showcase on May 16 at noon in the TECO Theater.
For many of the kids, it will be their first trip to the Straz Center and a rare opportunity to be on stage.
“Keeping the same kids for three years and seeing them grow, and being a constant in their lives...you start building relationships with the kids. That’s what I enjoy most,” said Ashley.
When she's not giving 150% to the Patel Conservatory, Ashley spends time with her husband of five years, and has co-founded Versa Dance Company.