Stories from the Mission Field
Self-Taught Dancer Turns Pro For God
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How did you get started as a professional dancer?
Asher: I wanted to pursue dance and see where it would get me, so I went to AMTC in January of 2011. I auditioned for Season 8 of So You Think You Can Dance in February of 2011 and then went back for Season 9 in February of 2012. While on SYTYCD, I made it to Vegas, then made it through a couple of rounds in Vegas and then came back to Virginia. I was 17 at the time, doors just started opening, and I started getting teaching opportunities all up and down the East Coast.
What were the differences between season 8 and season 9 for you (success-wise)? Why did you decide to audition a second time?
Asher: The difference of my success from season 8 to season 9, I think, was a year of work that I put in. I worked very hard and travelled to New York by myself a couple different times throughout 2011 to train with the best to get ready for Season 9. I auditioned the second time because I knew that the show was a gateway to a career in the dance industry and it was one of my only opportunities coming from Virginia. I knew I had to try to make a name for myself through that show to have a shot at being a professional dancer so I worked very hard to make that happen.
You have really accomplished so much since the Winter Conference. What you have been up to?
Asher: I moved to NY for a year for training. From NY, I signed with my agency on the east coast, then I signed with them on the west coast and went back and forth. Last year, I moved to Los Angeles.
Training at Broadway Dance Center was crazy for me. Because I taught myself to dance in my garage in Virginia. But I was able to get a scholarship to Broadway Dance Center in New York. I trained there, did the Summer Intern program, as well as the Professional Connector. I was able to get some of the best training in the entire world.
Coming from where I am from, it is so crazy to be here. Even the little things I have done have been unreal. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and taught myself how to dance. God just kept opening up doors for me, and one thing led to another. Each step of the way, I just stay positive because I was never supposed to be here in the first place. Anything I am able to do is crazy to me. Opportunities keep getting bigger and bigger, and I am just excited to keep working harder and do all I can do. The sky is the limit, ya know?
You really taught yourself to dance in your garage?
Asher: Yeah, I think I saw NSYNC on the Grammys when I was really young, and realized that I wanted to start dancing. I had a guy teach me a couple of old school grooves, and I started to fall in love with it. I practiced those over and over. Then I started going to the garage every day, practicing, trying to get better. It was trial and error, trial and error. Finally, I started to get kind of good.
Tell us about one of your most exciting moments.
Asher: Everything has been exciting, but my most exciting was probably getting the Usher call. I could not believe that I was going to be able to dance with Usher. Everyone knows that he is one of the slickest dancers out, and has been around for so long. That was incredible. But then, that lead to the Michael Jackson Hologram on the Billboard Awards. Since Michael died before I had the chance to dance for him, it was incredible to dance at that. The hologram was the closest I would ever get to be able to dance with Michael Jackson.
When I got the call about the Billboard Awards, I was speechless. I prayed, and just thanked God. None of it was up to me. All I can do ever do is work hard every day, and be the best that I can be. Then from there, He leads me to the auditions I need to go to, and puts me in front of the people that need to see me. I didn’t know what to say when I got the call, it was a dream come true for sure.
What was SHINE like for you? How did AMTC and SHINE help you in your career?
Asher: It was really the first thing I had been able to do with the entertainment industry. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. They only showed a bit of the entertainment industry, but from not being able to see anything then to see that, it was incredible. Some of the contacts that I met there, in 2011 when I attended, I still use out here in L.A. now. I still keep in contact with some of the agents I met when I was there three years ago.
How did you hear about AMTC?
Asher: I was planning to go to college, actually I was getting some scholarships to play golf. Golf was getting super frustrating, and I had started to turn my focus to dance. I was actually home sick with strep throat, on the internet looking around for dance stuff coming up, and randomly saw AMTC’s advertisement, got to the website and saw that there was an audition coming up in two or three weeks. It was a couple of hours from where I was at the time. I told my parents about it, and we were like “yeah, might as well go and try out for it. Who knows what will happen.” So I tried out, and one thing led to another…next thing I knew, I was at AMTC.
What did God show you through AMTC?
Asher: It’s such a cliche statement to say “you can do anything you want to do,” but you really can. Through AMTC, God showed me that He is here with me. We are in this thing together. I hold up my end, and He will hold up His. I think AMTC was a big turning point in my life, making me realize that I could actually get into the industry. I was only 17 at the time, and looking at the entertainment industry, all the competition and dancers, I didn’t know if I had the talent or drive. But God said, “Let’s go! Me and you. Let’s do this thing.” One thing led to another, and now I’m standing here.
Tell us how you have seen Christ move in you while being in the industry.
Asher: I have been put in certain situations where I could either go against what God wanted me to do, or I could turn away from the situation and not do it, even if I didn’t know what job would come next. It’s tough when you don’t know what job opportunity is coming next. He has really given me patience. There is a lot of down time between jobs. You don’t know what you’re going to do, or how to pay rent next month. He has shown me than if I stick with Him, it’s going to be better. Maybe not easy, but He is going to teach you.
How has the move to Los Angeles been?
Asher: The hardest thing I have ever tried to do, for sure. It is another world out here, and L.A. is a pretty mean place. It is the most over saturated market of talent in the entire world. The competition is through the roof. I show up to an audition, and they will want three dancers, but have 800 people audition. It’s tough to get moving out here, and getting off the ground is very difficult. I had to work a lot of jobs I did not want to work. I had to work at a golf course, get up four days a week at 4:30 a.m., just to pay rent. It has been really tough. I’m having to work hard to get to where I want to be. It’s more work than I bargained for, but that’s a good thing.
Who has been your favorite choreographer you have worked with so far
Asher: My favorite choreographers’ have been Rich & Tone Talauega. They are the biggest choreographers out here. They saw me on a project for MTV that I was filming — a pilot for a new dance show — they found me there. They liked me, the way I worked, the way I carried myself. They started putting me on other things, like MTV, Usher, Michael Jackson. I have worked with them for the past six months, which has been very very cool.
Two of my favorite dancers I have been able to work with are Marc Marvelous and Devin Jamieson, he is the funkiest white boy I have ever seen get down—such an inspiration. Both of these guys are veteran dancers, and I have been able to work with them on the last couple of jobs, like the Michael Jackson Project. It has been crazy just being around them, and being able to learn from them.
When you face challenges in the entertainment industry, how do you stay committed to your walk with Christ?
Asher: You draw a line, and that is the line. No questions when a situation arises. If it’s not what you need to be doing, you absolutely do not do it. It’s tough, but at the same time, it’s not if you plan for it. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t have a plan, or if you don’t have your mind made up about a situation before you get into it, then you won’t know what to do. But if you have already drawn a line, and you know what you will not do, then it is easier to deal with situations when they come up. In situations [that cross the line], I remove myself, and pray that He has something better in mind, which He always does. You have to stay committed and just trust in Him.
Do you have any suggestions for performers and/or dancers wanting to make it in the industry?
Asher: Don’t make excuses and strive to outwork everyone. In a market that has so much talent, if you’re not working then someone else is. You have to be working around the clock to get better. Also, take pride in your work! Strive to be very good at what God created you to do, work harder than those around you, and be proud. Honestly, I tell everyone to just work hard and don’t worry
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