“Want to dance?” she asked a shy boy who was sitting in the corner chair of the stake center.
It was her first church dance, and she wasn’t letting it go to waste. He couldn’t resist her big eyes and bright smile and took her hand. She led him to the dance floor, spinning and twirling circles around the shy and somewhat awkward teen. She smiled and laughed, and he couldn’t help but smile back at her.
Ashley Page has been dancing since the age of 5. Little did she know that one day her love for dance would allow children across the world to experience the world of Disney through live performance.
“I was able to travel the world, dancing and performing as a Disney character,” Page said of her time touring as a cast member of Disney Live. “Kids are screaming for you, trying to dance like you and holding dolls of, essentially, you. The best way to describe this performing experience is fun. It was so fun!”
Page auditioned for Disney Live as a freshman at BYU. The audition held in Orem seemed like a dream, and she never expected to actually get the job offer. Page was home for the summer, in Eagle, Colo., working at the local gas station when she got the call from Disney Live casting director Jessica Ferris. With three weeks notice, Page packed her bags and headed for Xian, China.
“I was terrified,” Page said of learning a two-hour show full of dancing, props and Mandarin Chinese. The dancers lip sync the show in order for the Disney characters’ voices to remain the same worldwide. “The hardest part was remembering to mouth the words while I danced,” Page said. “The first few shows were stressful, but after that … I was just Jessie (from ‘Toy Story’), and I loved it.”
Page’s husband and high school sweetheart, Austin, was the shy boy at the stake dance. He said that even then, her smile was contagious.
“She loves making people happy,” he said. “That first time she asked me to dance, she made me smile. That is just what she likes to do for other people; she likes making them happy.”
Austin and Ashley Page married Dec. 28, 2012. Austin was serving an LDS mission when his wife-to-be was performing across the world. He said he knew she was doing what she loved. He was “excited for her adventures and happy for the opportunity.”
The Disney Live Southeast Asia tour left Ashley Page with a lot of time to perform and learn about different cultures and people.
“I was the only Mormon in a cast of people from all over the world. I had to make it a point to live the lifestyle I wanted right away,” she said. “I became the DW (designated walker) for the cast … we didn’t drive cars, so I would walk the other performers back to the hotels after parties. They respected my decisions, and I never felt uncomfortable being who I was.”
Ashley Page’s choice to attend regular church meetings also opened the eyes of those around her.
“I was having missionary experiences just by living my normal life in a not normal place,” she said. “At one point my tour director just created a habit of getting my ‘church cab’ on Sundays. He found the LDS buildings and set everything up for me so that I could attend the services. It was so sweet.”
When Ashley Page’s “Disney mission” ended, she was faced with reality and getting back into school, stationary life and marriage. The newlyweds applied to BYU and began school again Winter semester 2013.
Ashley Page auditioned for BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre and is currently performing under the direction of Nathan Balser.
“I noticed her right away at the audition,” Balser said of Page. “Her big, bright eyes and her animated way of dance and performance just drew me in … I wanted to keep watching her.”
While Disney Live allowed Ashley Page to perform to her extremes, she has had extensive gymnastics and ballet training throughout her life. She trained for more than ten years with the Columbus Youth Ballet.
“I still love ballet, but there is more to life than being a bun-head” Ashley Page said. “I loved people, and creating good, strong relationships has always been the most important to me. I think that’s why I love to perform. I love to make connections with people.”
Ashley Page has a knack for performing, and her husband said she is “the happiest woman” on the stage.
“You don’t expect for her to have been a bun-head,” Balser said of Ashley Page. “She has so much personality in her dancing, and you don’t always get that with ballerinas. I love working with (Page) because she has strong technique but can also draw in a crowd doing any style, from strict modern to the crazy lindyhop.”
This Disney dancer and lifetime performer wants to continue “making people smile” all her life. Ashley Page is an exercise and wellness major, planning on attending nursing school when she graduates next year.
“I could see her dancing around the halls of the hospital to make her patients smile,” Balser said. “It’s just what she does; she makes people happy.”