The Washington Ballet's Ashley Murphy-Wilson Writes a Letter to Her Teenage Self

October 24, 2019

In one moment, Ashley Murphy-Wilson is a careful technician, gracefully extending her limbs to exact degrees. In the next, a powerhouse, hurtling into a flurry of turns or a gravity-defying leap. This versatility is no surprise when you consider she’s danced just about everywhere—the Kennedy Center, Black Entertainment Television, the White House, an episode of Jeopardy, a Verizon Wireless commercial, and, now, The Washington Ballet. Murphy-Wilson grew up dancing recreationally in Shreveport, LA, and it wasn’t until she enrolled in a few serious summer intensives that she realized her passion for dance might be backed by real potential. After graduating high school, she accepted a spot with the Dance Theatre of Harlem junior company. Within a year, she was promoted to the main company, and continued to dance within the DTH community until 2015, when she made the jump to TWB. Since then, she has dazzled Washington audiences in leading roles in The Nutcracker, Jardin aux lilas, Paul Taylor’s Company B, and more. —Cadence Neenan

A young Murphy-Wilson performing (Courtesy Murphy-Wilson)

Dear Ashley,

I know this might sound a bit strange, but don’t be alarmed: I’m here to help! I am writing to you from the future, and just like Marty McFly in that movie you watched over and over again as a kid, I have insight to share and words of wisdom to help lighten your load.

First of all, let me say that I am so proud…not only of the things you have done, but of the things you will do! What I am about to tell you will only help you continue in that direction. So, listen up!

I know that, as a teenager, giving up the opportunity to spend time with your friends because of dance classes and rehearsals is not ideal, but trust me, it will pay off in the long run. Those classes and rehearsals are “money in the bank,” as one of your favorite teachers will soon tell you. So, keep pushing on. I know that where you come from, dancing is a hobby and not a profession, but that’s not true everywhere, so keep up the hard work. And keep pushing on.

There will be people in your life who will put you down, telling you that your legs are too muscular, your breasts too big, your extension too low, your glutes too round, your skin too dark. But all those things are what make you, you. And, you
keep pushing on.

There will be times when you are so overwhelmed that you want to quit, but quitting is never an option. And there will be a man, a legend, named Arthur Mitchell who will never let you settle. So, you will have no choice except to keep pushing on.

If you keep up the good work you will prove your naysayers wrong time and time again. The shy little girl that now gets into trouble for looking down and not speaking up will blossom into a force to be reckoned with, who stands her ground and knows what she wants. You will be an inspiration to others who look like you and a beacon of hope for those who doubt themselves. So, when the road gets tough, strap on those boots and keep pushing on!

With love and admiration,

Your future self—Ashley