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5 minutes with: Ashley Shaw

The Sloane Street local and principal ballerina for Matthew Bourne talks about her new show The Car Man, her favourite spots in Chelsea and her London style essentials

6 April 2022

When did you realise you wanted to be a ballet dancer?

Since forever, really. My mum put me into ballet when I was just three, so I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. I always loved going to the theatre and watching ballerinas up on stage and I just knew that’s what I wanted to be. That desire became more serious when I moved from Australia to London at 16 to continue my professional training. 


What has been your career highlight so far?

For me, the highlight has been originating the role of Victoria Page in Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. It’s one thing to play a principal character in a show, but quite another to work with the choreographer and create a role from scratch. It was so special to work with Matthew in that way. The film version of The Red Shoes is so iconic and well-loved so it was a real honour to bring that to the stage. 


Tell us about the productions you’re working on this year

Things are quite busy at the moment, which feels wonderful post-pandemic. I’m currently on tour with Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker!, which we’ve been dancing since October! It finishes at the end of April and then I’ll go straight into rehearsals for The Car Man, which is playing at the Royal Albert Hall for just two weeks in June. This show is spectacular and a dancer’s favourite to be involved in, so come and see us if you can.

Then, later this year, we will be performing Sleeping Beauty at Sadler’s Wells theatre over Christmas, followed by a UK tour. I’ve also been doing some filming for the sequel to Disney’s Enchanted, called Disenchanted.


What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?

Try everything! Sometimes as dancers we put ourselves into boxes such as ‘just a ballerina’ or ‘just a breakdancer’. Try it all… sing, act, flip, dance jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, ballroom… The more versatile you are, the more employable you are. Plus, it keeps your career interesting and exciting by doing so many different shows. 


We love seeing your outfits on Instagram – how would you describe your personal style?

Ah, thank you. I would describe it as casually flamboyant. Ha! I love anything with ruffles, feathers, sparkle, faux fur, volume and anything colourful. I like things that are a bit different and try not to go with the ordinary. 


What are your wardrobe essentials?

Being a dancer on my feet all day, comfortable shoes are essential. But that doesn’t mean they have to look comfortable – I have platform heels and thigh-high boots that are a dream to walk in.

Also, cute outerwear is a must. Most of my clothes money is spent on coats and jackets. Living in London where the weather is mostly cold and wet means that sometimes the outfit underneath never even gets seen, so make sure the coat is cute. 


What makes Sloane Street special for you?

I’m very lucky to live close to Sloane Street, so I would consider it my local hangout. It has so many wonderful places to shop and eat, and is just a beautiful area to take a stroll. One of my favourite times of the year on Sloane Street is Chelsea in Bloom in May. I can’t wait for this year’s.


What are your favourite things to do in the neighbourhood?

I love strolling around Chelsea with my fiancé Adam and our little pup Dexter, especially on weekends. 

Some of my favourite food spots, to name just a few, are the market on Duke of York Square for yummy homemade treats, The Black Penny for alfresco dining and the best eggs, and Sloane Street Deli, a great coffee stop that is dog friendly. 

I also love to shop and there is so much choice. I particularly love RIXO at the moment for its spring dresses. And if all that shopping hasn’t burned off those calories, my favourite gym to go to is KXU on Pavilion Road. Take a spin class with Anthony Garcia – you won’t regret it!


What motto do you live by?

I know it’s cheesy, but ‘you only live once’. Life is too short to miss out on the good things, so book that holiday, buy those shoes, go to that party, order the cake, wear what you want and do what makes you happy!

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