Asha is from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Juilliard School in New York City in 1999 under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy. Upon graduating, Asha became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she was a principal dancer for eight years. I have seen her perform many times. She is hard to miss… on the on stage or on the street. She is a natural beauty. In performance, Asha stands out from the rest of the women. She has a subtle movement quality that may suddenly explodes with power and dynamic. She has always been one of my favorites.


In 2007, Asha changed it up when she moved overseas and relocated to France to work as a freelance artist with several dance companies. What a change! That took a lot of courage. So far her work includes: Compagnie Moral Soul (Armorythmes), Compagnie Salia nï Seydou (Poussières de Sang) , Raphaëlle Delaunay (Bitter Sugar/ EIKON/ Ginger Jive), Richard Siegal /The Bakery (Glossopoeïa), Prue Lang (Timeproject) and most recently with Philippe Ménard (Air/ Heroïne – a solo for 2015).


Asha created Compagnie Ima in 2010 in order to develop and produce her own choreographic work. That same year she created Mi Peñita Negra, a flamenco-inspired solo, which has been performed in Germany, Morocco, and France. She has also created a duet, Ghazals, performed with dancer David Gaulein-Stef, which is inspired by the Persian poetry of Hafiz . Her latest project, Clay, which is in progress for 2015 is a collaboration with flamenco dancer Yinka Esi Graves. Asha also works with the Africa Regional Services (ARS) department of the US Embassy in France that sends American artists to countries within Africa to perform, give workshops, and do other cultural outreach.


Asha you continue to inspire me and many others with your work. Thank you.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?

I always, always wanted to be a dancer. That is pretty much what I’ve always done and I really am thankful for that. I also used to LOVE to sing when I was little..outside on the the cars passing by…so I suppose I was always going to be an artist.

Asha’s Favorite Things


Right now my favorite thing is my bathtub since I’ve been in a lot of rehearsals lately. (Fyi…in Paris many apartments don’t have tubs, something I took for granted in the States, so I love mine extra now). I also have a thing for new notebooks and journals. The feeling of possibility from a blank page really excites me! A weird thing I love is my gps…I love wandering around with it telling me where to go.

Favorite Things to eat?

at the moment…sushi!

Favorite Books?

From time to time I love a good self-help book..about gratitude or creating the life that you want. I also like Jhumpa Lahiri and Khaled Hosseini’s novels.

Favorite Movies?

Dead Poet’s Society, The Color Purple, The Last Dragon (I know, I know..)

Favorite Dance Piece or Show/Musical or both?

There are so many…some favorites are Déserts/Désirs by Taoufiq Izeddiou and Bouchra Ouizguen, La Edad de Oro by Israel Galván. Last year I saw Punchdrunk’s production of A Drowned Man and was blown away by the experience…. As a dancer, there was something so completely intoxicating about dancing Ulysses Dove’s Urban Folk Dance that made me almost giddy.

I like dancers who…

…have a sense of investigation to their movement or who go about movement in an unexpected way. I also like dancers who pay great attention to detail. I love dancers who have an authenticity to them, which has little to do with any technique you can acquire.

I am afraid of…

…losing my loved ones and the inevitability of certain hard realities of life. What else? airplane turbulence scares me, any creature that scurries scares me ….. Also I can’t seem to bring myself to do the same things over and over so I suppose I may have a fear of getting stuck in routine.

A dance piece should…

…be whatever it wants, I suppose. In New York I saw and danced pieces that displayed dancers’ virtuosity, entertained, or tugged at your emotions….here in France the objective seems to be more to provoke the audience, or to take a political stance on a certain issue…and the more radical the better. My perspective has shifted a bit being in this environment and what constitutes as “dance” is very different. I suppose that a dance piece should first and foremost contain dance…whatever that happens to mean to the choreographer…and bring the audience along for some sort of ride.

Something you like to do other than your current job?

Flamenco..I take class every chance I get. I’m also learning Spanish…

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Once when I used to dance with Ailey, I had not properly checked the casting board for the last piece, Revelations. On the rare occasion, you could end up doing the very last group section of that ballet without having danced in any of the other parts leading up to it…but it doesn’t happen often. So I had assumed (wrongly) that I was free to leave the theater. I think I was at the movies when I was supposed to be onstage dancing… not good .. haha!

One of the hardest things about your job?

Now that I work freelance, the hardest thing is to endure the down time in contrast to the intense working periods. That is very emotionally and physically challenging. It’s almost harder than working a lot all the time because in that situation you have a rhythm, you know what you need to do and how to do it. Freelance is a little trickier and can throw you off. You have to be able to ride the wave. And you have to always stay ready…and you have to know how to create your own momentum.

One of the happiest moments in your life?

Probably at my brother’s wedding a few years ago in Japan. My whole family was together just like in the old was a week of laughter, singing songs from our childhood…I have a special memory of the family having to formally introduce ourselves at the ceremony in Japanese, which was hilarious…

One of your most unusual or coolest experiences?

There are just SO many…Earlier this year, as part of outreach that I sometimes do with the US embassy, I was in Benin performing with a colleague of mine. During an improvised solo, the electricity went out, something that happens regularly in Africa. Even in the dark with no sound, I just kept dancing. A guy from the embassy who had accompanied us was in the audience and noticed that I was still moving so he came up to the front of the stage with his cellphone and lit me with the light of his phone as I danced. The audience was going crazy! Chanting my was surreal..and magical!


One of the most embarrassing moments in your professional career?

Once when I used to dance with Ailey, I had not properly checked the casting board for the last piece, Revelations. On the rare occasion, you could end up doing the very last group section of that ballet without having danced in any of the other parts leading up to it…but it doesn’t happen often. So I had assumed (wrongly) that I was free to leave the theater. I think I was at the  movies when I was supposed to be onstage dancing… not good .. haha!

Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?

Probably when I was younger, a man named Gary Harrison from Atlanta, Ga. He was my dance teacher, mentor, and friend and I absolutely idolized him. It was his idea that I audition for Juilliard. Afterwards, Juilliard itself influenced me so much. Not only was I in New York which is inspiring in itself but there is something incredible about Juilliard that I haven’t found anywhere else. The level of talent is staggering and inspiration is just spewing from the walls… and not just from the other dancers…you walk down the hall and you hear a concerto…your side job is an usher for a drama play that features some of the most talented artists on the planet…etc. It was just incredible. Of course I am very much influenced by every environment in which I find myself… Of course dancers have a very intimate connection which their coworkers and I was highly influenced by my insanely talented coworkers in the Ailey Company… and continue to be influenced by the different choreographers here in France that push me in very different ways.



Something you would change in the DANCE world?

Maybe the judgement….the self-judgment, judgement from peers, from critics, from audience members, etc.. There is a lot of pressure that the artist already puts on himself and for growth to happen there needs to be a space for experimentation, being yourself, testing it out, getting it wrong, getting it right, changing your mind, excelling, developing in your own time….if we could all be more sensitive to each artist’s own journey then maybe we wouldn’t judge so much. !

Something you would change in the REAL world?

Our addiction to technology…and the need for more, more, more, more, now, now, now, now. It makes me sad for us when I go to a performance for example and people are more concerned with taking pictures or filming on whatever gadget they have than being at the theater. I feel like technology has profaned a lot of our sacred space and sacred moments. A friend of mine was telling me about a wedding where everyone had their iPhones, iPads, etc whipped out for the vows instead of actually witnessing the vows! It’s like we’ve collectively decided that if you don’t capture a special moment (then upload it!) somehow it doesn’t really exist. I “ain’t” gonna lie, I feel the urge to do it too… !

Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?

Plenty!!! Professionally and personally. ..
Since freelancing, I have had the opportunity to work with such a variety of choreographers that stretch me and teach me, which can be uncomfortable or foreign…but so so good. For each project my goal is to do what I could not do or had not thought to do before. As a choreographer I feel like I’m still a baby, and trying to figure out how things work and what my particular voice is…there, my goal is to just keep at it until my skills and experience catch up with my ambition. !

A question you want to know the answer to?

Where will I live next?? !

Dear aspiring artists,

There is always more. There is always something different. Dance (or any other form) is not just one thing…go out and find all the things that it could be and then find ways to make it something else. There is no one way to move…and there is no one approach to movement. Have you tried different ones? Try to see with new eyes..sometimes that means putting yourself in new situations.

–Asha Thomas



 Photo Journal




Amos Machanic Jr, Clifton Brown and Asha Thomas ©Andrew Eccles

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Have you worked with Asha? Have you seen her perform? Help me say thank you by sharing your stories in the comments below.

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