A! Magazine for the Arts

Ainsley Dunning (photo by Richard Mink)

Ainsley Dunning (photo by Richard Mink)

Ainsley Dunning feels 'linked' to ballet

August 29, 2022

Ainsley Dunning’s teacher, Deanna Cole-Roberts of Highlands Ballet, has this to say about her former student, “Ainsley’s God-given talent was apparent from the very first time I saw her as a young student. She is an intelligent young lady and soaks up every bit of information that a teacher has to offer. Having her as a student has been a joy ... and very rewarding to watch her grow into an extraordinary performer. Her ability to capture the style of any given role and her dramatic interpretation is outstanding. She is a dedicated young lady and Highlands Ballet is proud to have been a part of her training.”

Ainsley is studying dance at Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pennsylvania, and plans to make dance her career. “I hope to join a professional ballet company and continue to share my love of dance with the world. I am also interested in pursuing choreography and other collaborative interdisciplinary work as part of my career,” she says.

She started ballet when she was 3 but had loved dance before she was enrolled in any formal class. When her family moved to Bristol, she joined Highlands Ballet.

“Ballet interests me because of the sense of paradox that extends through so much of the art form. Ballet is deeply based in history and tradition but continues to evolve to reflect the present day. Additionally, it offers a synthesis of logic and creativity which is especially fascinating to me. I love creative arts, but I am also passionate about math and science. Classical technique is inherently rooted in the logic of anatomy and physics, but what we as artists choose to do within those restraints presents a constant source of creativity and innovation,” she says.

She danced in a variety of productions during her time at Highlands Ballet, including“The Nutcracker,”“Alice in Wonderland” and“The Magic Butterfly.”Her favorite role is Maleficent, which she performed in Highlands Ballet’s“Sleeping Beauty: The Spell”in May 2022.

“I love the role and the production because they incorporate elements of the classical ‘Sleeping Beauty’ while telling Maleficent’s backstory,” she says.

“I have been incredibly blessed by opportunities to work with leading industry professionals through a variety of programs. I spent a month studying at Virginia’s Summer Residential Governor’s School for Dance. I have also attended summer intensives offered by the American Ballet Theater and the University of North Carolina School for the Arts. Dancing with these programs allows me to broaden my perspective on the industry, improve my technique and network with peers and mentors alike.

“All of my instructors have been major influences for me. I am also constantly inspired by the evolution of the dance industry — as professional dancers and companies create new works and present new ideas; it encourages me to continue improving my technique and honing my artistic voice.

“To me, ballet is more than physical exercise. It is a form of pure visual communication that allows me to express myself in a way words cannot. I see ballet as a way of connecting with myself and other people; in studying dance, I feel linked to the rich history of ballet and the many masters who have shaped today’s dance world. Additionally, I feel performing allows me to connect with audience members, providing them with a unique form of catharsis and communication,” Ainsley says.

She is the 18-year-old daughter of Samuel and Dawn Dunning of Bristol, Virginia, and is a freshman at Mercyhurst University.