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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: ASHLEY HYERS

by Lenise Willis

“I was never interested in studying dance,” said Ashley Hyers, dance instructor at Greensboro College and wife of the late Stephen D.

Hyers, director of City Arts Drama Center. “My undergrad degree is biology and French, and I had intended to do genetic counseling.”

Although Ashley Hyers grew up taking jazz, tap and ballet, she didn’t think she’d end up teaching dance at Greensboro College, or even choreographing the school’s upcoming production of The Robber Bridegroom. Instead, she thought she’d be helping those with genetic disorders and diseases. Of course, how many of us knew what we wanted to do in college, really?

After completing an internship her junior year, she realized that she didn’t want to do anything in the medical profession. “It was sort of crisis mode,” Hyers laughed.

So, in her senior year, the same year she met Stephen, she returned home and interned where she grew up dancing “” with the Greensboro’s Parks and Recreation dance program.

“I kind of wanted to come back home and do something fun, and it was a comfortable place to be while I was freaking out not knowing what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” she said.

After graduating from Wofford College in South Carolina, she continued to teach dance part time for the city, and did administrative work for Ceba (now Syngenta Crop Protection Inc.).

That was until Stephen pointed out that she was never excited about her work for Ceba; she always wanted to talk about her dance classes. “I realized I didn’t want to do corporate work either, but I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted to get me a quote, ‘real job,'” she laughed.

She started teaching at the studio, made some contacts at Greensboro College and when the school’s movement and dance instructor passed on in ’97, they asked Hyers to quickly fill the position. “I had never planned it. It just happened,” said Hyers, who’s now been in the business for about 20 years. “It was a lot of learning on the fly.”

Now she teaches dance, ranging from jazz, tap and ballet to movement and social dance, at Greensboro College, Catawba College and Artistic Motion School of Arts in Greensboro.

When she’s not showing students how to move to the beat (or the theatrical story), she enjoys hiking and spending time with her two children, Andrew and Page, both of which are freshmen in high school.

If you’d like to check out Hyers’ latest work, you can see her choreography in the Greensboro College’s upcoming musical, The Robber Bridegroom, which opens this week.

The musical, based on the 1942 novella, features Jamie Lockhart, a Robin Hood-like hero and legendary character in Mississippi folklore, set in 18th century Mississippi. Schemes and escapades abound as Lockhart, “the bandit of the woods,” rescues a plantation owner from a gang, attempts to win over the wealthy man’s daughter, and faces the plotting of her evil stepmother.

Hyers said developing the choreography was challenging, but a lot of fun because of its uniqueness.

For starters, the chorus not only dances, but also moves the set around and at times poses as set pieces as well. “Because the ensemble is switching from real people to the set, it’s a really physical show,” Hyers said. “The energy is really high; it’s a fun, fun show.”

Besides acting as trees, steps, and even an oven, the actors also mimic various folk dances, moving to the musical’s bluegrass.

“The phrasing and the structure of bluegrass is tricky,” she said.

“I love bluegrass music, but figuring out to choreograph to it “” that was a challenge. All of the music is bluegrass and so we wanted the dances to be in that same vein, so it’s all folkdance.”

All in all, Hyers has greatly enjoyed falling “” or dancing “” into her profession and appreciates the differences between concert dance and theatrical movement.

“Everything I do should sell the story, and so I can’t just put something in because I think that’s cool. My main job is to tell the story; it just happens to be through dance.” !

WANNA go?

Greensboro College presents The Robber Bridegroom Wednesday through Sunday in the Gail Brower Huggins Performance Center in the Odell Building on campus. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. For tickets or more information email tickets@greensboro.edu or call 272-7102, ext. 5242.

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