Ashley Madrid performs a grand jete in her Sugar Plum Fairy role in 2019. Madrid left this summer to begin dance study programs in Sacramento and then Washington, D.C. (Contributed Photo)

KING CITY — Ashley Madrid attended her last class with Monterey County Dance Theatre on June 5 and headed off to Sacramento to study with Sacramento Ballet before beginning her academic year at Kirov Ballet Academy in Washington, D.C.

“She started dancing when she was 3-1/2 years old,” said Jan Harkness, director of the dance studio, which is located in King City. “The minute she put her ballet slippers on, I knew we had someone special to work with.”

Harkness said Madrid, now 16, has excelled in her dance artistry as well as her academics.

“She has been accepted at almost every place that she’s ever auditioned to and she is a representative of King City and the South County community to allow children from all walks of life to excel,” she added.

According to Madrid, she can’t imagine her life without dancing and pursues it constantly. She not only practices with Monterey County Dance Theatre (MCDT), but also signs up for summer intensive programs. 

During the pandemic lockdown, she practiced through virtual programs.

“There’s a connection between me and dance,” Madrid said. “I feel like I can keep going and pursue it.”

Madrid has been with MCDT since beginning to dance at age 3 and has recently been the lead in “The Nightingale.” She has gone on to study at several internationally backed schools, namely the Kirov and the Bolshoi. 

In the past school year, Madrid switched to independent study to pursue her dream of dance.

“She was taking the Covid-era Zoom classes at 6 a.m. until about 1 p.m. with the Kirov Ballet Academy in Washington, D.C.,” Harkness said. “She just graduated from that program last week and was offered to become a student at the school in September.”

She said the achievement is exceptional for a high school freshman.

“It’s for extremely gifted students who are excelling in the arts,” Harkness said. “It’s a rounded program that will provide her the basis for access to international ballet competitions to further her academic degree.”

Madrid said there are ups and downs with dance, and sometimes there are days where she feels the weight of challenges.

“You have to remember that everyday you’re learning something new, you’re becoming much stronger in general,” Madrid said about her keeping an outlook to move forward, even if it is by little steps at a time.

In her 38 years of teaching dance, Harkness said Madrid is only the second student to be offered an entry into a year-round study program. Access, she noted, can be an obstacle for local students.

“To do dance at the highest levels, you have to go to where the exceptional high-level training centers are and that’s why it is so difficult for children in rural areas to get that access,” she explained. “We’re extremely proud of her.”

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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