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How Ashanté Green Found Her Dream Job

"It's my dream job," says Ashanté Green. Photo courtesy of Dance Institute of Washington

When Ashanté Green got the offer to teach at The Dance Institute of Washington in 2014, it was like coming home. “It's my dream job," she says. As a 7-year-old growing up in Maryland, Green was spotted at a local community center by DIW's beloved founder Fabian Barnes. He invited her to join the school, which offers classes, performance opportunities and mentorship to local youth, many of whom are at risk. Green stayed for seven years before going on to attend a performing arts high school. “I had a wonderful experience at DIW," she says. “I wouldn't be the dancer I am today if I hadn't trained under Fabian Barnes." (Barnes passed away unexpectedly in 2016.)

Green teaches ballet and modern, but it's in her contemporary jazz classes for students ages 10–18 that she can really play. She uses improvisation exercises to build her recreational students' confidence as performers and develop their musicality. “You don't have time to think and plan. You just have to do and feel," she says. “It helps get them out of their shells." Word prompts are one of her go-to tools for creative exploration. She calls out adjectives, like “low," “dark" or “happy," and the students have to respond with movement. Once they get the hang of that, Green adds another layer of difficulty: time. “I might say 'Move in slow motion' or 'Let's speed it up,' and they have to do so while still keeping the original words in their bodies," she says.

Although she focuses on artistry, Green reminds students that strong technique is non-negotiable. “For me, it's quality over quantity," she says. “I don't care if you do 10 pirouettes if your foot is sickled. Give me a clean pirouette with the foot neatly placed."

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Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of The Ailey School

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DaSilva (center) teaching at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts Center in NYC. Photo courtesy of DaSilva

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Photo by Rosalie O'Connor (courtesy of Bo

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On corrections: "It doesn't matter if it's a coach or a dancer who comes to me and gives me a professional correction—I trust them. If someone sees me struggling with something, and they show me how I can make it better, that's how I'll continue to improve. Even if I disagree with their correction, I'll think about what they've said, and try it out anyway."

On the rigors of a professional ballet career:"I didn't always know if this was what I wanted to do for my profession. The learning process at school got so intense, I had to ask myself, 'Do I really want to go through all this?' You have to go through hell to become one of the highest-ranking dancers in one of the best companies in the world. You have to sacrifice and dedicate yourself completely."

His next step: "I hope to one day be a master coach in a ballet company, as well as spend some time working with young students. I want to teach young dancers how to take corrections in the way that I was taught to take corrections. I want them to pay attention and really work to fix their mistakes."

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