Ashley Joppich. Dancer.

“We used to live on a farm about an hour away from Toowoomba, and there weren’t many families around, so mum put me into dance just so I had some interaction with other kids. I was three years old then, but by the time I was seven, my sister and I did every single style.

Poor Mum. She had to drive us forty-five minutes into Toowoomba four days a week. She started dropping a few hints for us to stop. Mum was always “Do you want to drop out of some dance?”. Every time she suggested it I’d be like “NO WAY MUM, definitely not!” [laughs] I know deep down she really wanted us to keep going.

Never as a child did I consider stopping dance and trying something else though. No, I’d never give up dance.

Last year I moved away from home to live with my Aunty and Uncle in Brisbane so I could be closer to dance. I’m doing my Advanced Diploma at the Australian Dance Performance Institute. We’ve got just eight weeks until our graduation performance.

A typical day for me? I arrive at school at 7:50am every day, and classes start at 8:30am. We have a different schedule every day, but generally we start with Ballet class which focuses on technique. Then we have a Contemporary technique class or it could be a Repertoire class where we are practicing one of our pieces for an upcoming showcase. We also do stretching and conditioning which is Pilates styled exercises. Then more dance classes.

Dance finishes around 4:30 in the afternoon, and then I start on my Year 12 school work.”

“Being a professional dancer has been my biggest dream. Ever since I was three years old that was what I wanted to do. Sometimes though when someone asks “what do you want to do?” and you say Dance, you feel like they don’t see that as a real job. But for me, I think it would be the best job. Dance is just such a big part of me.

My proudest achievement to date, is how I’ve come back from my injury.

Early last year I started getting shin splints and it just progressively got worse. I was going to see a physio and doing all the exercises, but it wasn’t getting better. Finally it got to the point it was just too painful so I had to get x-rays and MRIs, and that’s when I discovered I had stress fractures in both of my shins. I had to wear moon boots on both legs! I was walking around a bit like a penguin and everyone would be like “Hi Ash” even before I’d got to class because they could hear me squelching down the hallway. Initially it was supposed to be for six weeks, but then it progressed out to twelve.

Every day during those twelve week though, I sill turned up to dance. And I just watched all day. That was pretty hard. Definitely. It was heartbreaking seeing my friends improving and wishing that I could be there, dancing with them and improving too. But I showed up. I had to. That’s just part of it.

I do remember sitting there sometimes and hating it – getting upset. So I tried to focus on helping others, looking out for my friends instead… just to get my mind off myself. If I’d kept thinking about my legs, I would have just gotten more upset.

I did that for twelve weeks and when I was finally out of my moonboots, it was still a very slow progression just to get back in. I had to do a rehab program; but then my legs would get worse again, so it was always one step forward, one step back. Finally now I’m at the stage where I can do a lot of the dancing… still not jumping. I can do a little bit of jumping, but not everything.

[Ash massages her legs the whole time we are talking] I’m happy and proud of how far I’ve come, and I think sitting out has really made me become more in tune with my body. I know what I need to do, like I ice my legs every night and I’ll massage them every morning to release all the built up tension, that’s the tension that’s been pulling my muscle away from the bone. Doing that is really important.

In a way I’m sort of glad it taught me that, because as I go on to pursue dance as a career I know that there are going to be other problems. This experience has really built my mental strength.”

Thank you Ashley.

Shot on Mamiya C330. Film stock Kodak TriX 400.
Developed + Scanned by RICHARD PHOTO LAB