Spotlight On ... Ashley
First year Timberwolves Dancer Ashley came to Minnesota all the way from Australia, so we sat down to chat about kangaroos, Lleyton Hewitt, Vegemite and more.
MT: Tell us about your professional dance team background in Australia:
Ashley: The NBL (National Basketball League) is the Australian league under the NBA, and quite often the coaches in the NBO will come to the States to scout for talent and bring them back. So, we had a lot of American players on our team, like Dusty Rychart*, who played for the Adelaide 36ers, the team I danced for.
*A former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher.
MT: Does every NBO team have a dance team?
Ashley: Not all of them. That’s where Adelaide was pretty special because we were the consistent team.
MT: How did your squad get it’s name?
Ashley: The 36ers started in 1936, so that’s it. Is that like the Philadelphia 76ers here?
MT: I think the 76ers name comes from the year of America’s independence from Great Britain, in 1776, because the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philly.
Ashley: Yeah our name was just for the year the club started.
MT: You must be big time back in Adelaide after making an NBA dance team as good as the Wolves, easily one of the best in the league…
Ashley: Well they are doing a story on me for the paper, the Sunday Mail in Adelaide. There are about one million people in Adelaide including the suburbs, but the actual city is quite small.
MT: Who’s the most famous person from Adelaide?
Ashley: Lleyton Hewitt, the tennis player.
MT: Oh sure. You guys friends?
Ashley: No. I did meet his parents once, because his sister is best friends with one of the girls on the 36ers.
MT: How does the school system work in Australia?
Ashley: We have Reception, which is like your kindergarten, then grades one through seven will generally be your elementary or middle school, which we call prep school. Grades eight to 12 are high school, but my school was a college so I went straight through the one school. For what you call college in America it’s different, because you can either go to Tase or Uni.
MT: I’m guessing Uni is like University…
Ashley: Yes. Uni probably has more kids than Tase, because you can do more things there. But they don’t offer dance at Uni. Tase is more hands on, like technical training where you get out there in the work place. Quite often your courses are done quicker, and it’s also a lot quicker. So it was good that I was able to get a bachelor degree at a Tase college, and it was really cheap to do while dancing every day for three years.
MT: What would you call one of your girlfriends Down Under if she were annoying you?
Ashley: Maybe “You cow.”
MT: Wow. What else?
Ashley: Oh I don’t know, I don’t really curse. They are probably pretty similar to American words. I haven’t been with my guy friends in a while though so I’m probably forgetting some stuff.
MT: What kind of music are people listening to in Australia right now?
Ashley: Well I like R&B, but what’s really big in Australia at the moment is dance music. I’m yet to figure out what you’d call that here – maybe techno – but I’d have to play it for you. It’s not Top 40 or R&B, it’s quite more up beat. Have you heard the song “Show Me Love?”
Ashley: It’s an Adelaide singer but I’ve heard it here.
MT: Not placing it, but I’ll have to look it up. What about movies?
Ashley: Mostly American movies. I liked “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Pineapple Express” a lot. Seth Rogen is hilarious, my favorite. I also like emotion, anything with a good message. I like movies that make you cry as well, like “P.S. I Love You.”
MT: What are some differences between food here and back home?
Ashley: There’s lots of cheese here. When my family came over here for a holiday, that was the first thing we noticed. Everything was covered in cheese – cheese curds, fried cheese – and it’s quite a lot.
MT: Were you in Wisconsin or something? Never mind. What do you eat in Australia that you can’t find here?
Ashley: Vegemite, for one.
MT: Hmm … Is that like a nutty, peanut buttery spread?
Ashley: No it’s not nutty or anything like that. It’s bitter, salty and black.
MT: Oops. Well, that doesn’t sound very good.
Ashley: No it really doesn’t, but the thing is, you just get brought up on it and eat it as soon as you start making toast. The taste is unique, and you get used to it. But you can’t just eat it plain, like peanut butter.
MT: Despite the advertisements here, I’m guessing people drink more than Fosters in Australia.
Ashley: There’s West End Draft, a cheaper beer. There’s Coopers, a real Australian beer. But one thing I noticed first when I came here is that girls drink different things at clubs in America. In Australia, every girl when you go out to a club, the first drink of choice will be champagne. It’s the cheapest – like five dollars, which is cheap at an Australian club because everything is more expensive there – and it goes straight to your head. Here, everyone drinks hard spirits and stuff…
MT: Meaning hard alcohol?
MT: Good. Got it. Let’s talk about kangaroos and Koala bears.
Ashley: I ride a kangaroo to school every day.
MT: (confused) Stop it.
Ashley: Of course not. Kangaroos aren’t very readily seen, actually. But my dad is a chiropractor and he has a clinic on Kangaroo Island, where he goes every Thursday. There are a lot of kangaroos there, hence the name. But Koalas, on the other hand, are (more visible). I live five minutes away from the beach and not in the hills, but if you go up in the hills you'll see loads of Koalas in the trees or crossing the road.
MT: Do you love them?
Ashley: Well, they are pretty cute, but they're nasty as well. They bite and scratch, and you can't go close to them.
MT: Yikes. That's sad to hear.
Ashley: Kangaroos are friendlier.
MT: What are some other stereotypes Americans throw at you?
Ashley: They ask if I'm going to throw shrimp on the barbe?
Ashley: The barbe. The barbeque. One thing in Australia is that we shorten everything. Even names.
MT: Oh. Right. Finally, what's it been like being a Timberwolves Dancer?
Ashley: I love it. It's really amazing. I can't believe how full on it is ... I'm still getting used to that. When I was cheerleading in Australia it wasn't about the fitness or all that, but we have a different image over here (in America). In Australia, it's for fun and if you want to do it you do it. Here in the NBA the expectations are higher and it's quite intense, but I'm getting used to it. The girls have been awesome - I left all my girlfriends back home and only have my relatives here, so it's been cool to make some new girlfriends here.