Beyonce's dance captain, Ashley Everett, on life on the run
The lights raise over Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, at Super Bowl 50. Ashley Everett, dance captain for Beyonce, and a crew of dancers in Black Panther-inspired berets atop of perfectly coifed 'fros approach the 10-yard line. Queen Bey's voice rings out, "Hey ladies, now let's get in formation..." Everett and squad place their heeled combat boots into the field and fall in line.
Yes, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos were battling it out for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, with Peyton Manning and the Broncos taking the win, but it was the halftime performance that won the show.
That was Everett's second Super Bowl performance; she also took the stage alongside 'Yonce in 2013 at Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, the Julliard-trained dancer made an appearance in HBO's "Lemonade" in 2016, performed at "Beychella" in April and is currently on Beyonce and Jay-Z's "On the Run II" tour.
When you dance alongside one of the world's greatest performers, you know that anything less than perfection isn't an option. And it's all about preparation. Everett, 29, shared with espnW how she trains for performances and what life is like on the road with Beyonce:
Grind before glamour
This job is about 10 percent glamorous. The other dancers and I only post the highlights on social media. We'd don't show the hard work -- the blood, sweat and tears that go into the job. Everyone only sees the outcome. There's a ton of work that goes into a huge production like the [OTR II] tour. We rehearse all of the time. We're always trying to make something better or add something to what is already great. We're constantly rehearsing and practicing because I work with someone who never settles.
Touring with Queen Bey
We are always carrying luggage. When we wake up, we check out of the hotel in whatever city we are in at the time. Then we have to drag our bags to the tour bus, load them up, get on the bus, go to the next performance venue and commence rehearsal. We typically rehearse in the sun since the venues are mostly outdoor stadiums.
We're onstage before the doors open, practicing things. Doors open around 5 p.m., the dancers get a chance to eat catering, then get our hair and makeup done. Then it gets glamorous. We get into costume and get ready to put on a show.
As soon as the show's over, we take everything off, wash our faces and take showers. We get on the tour bus looking like completely different people than what we did onstage. People probably wouldn't recognize us. We often get on the tour bus with our PJs on and hang out. My fellow dancers and I will have some post-show food, which could be anything from tacos, burritos, or pizza. It's always a surprise.
Then we climb into our little bunks [on the bus] and go to sleep, and then wake up in the next city and check into our hotel, drag our bags into the hotel, and do it all over again. Living out of a suitcase is probably one of the worst things about touring.
We were overseas for almost three months [for the international leg of the OTR II tour]. Adhering to a specific diet was especially hard in Europe, so much of the food is like pasta, bread or filled with butter. And yes, I'll have some pasta, but then I'll have fruit and veggies for a snack. It's all about balance. I can't eat pizza all day, every day.
And I make juices on tour. We have a juicer, and I'll throw in an apple, pineapple, celery, cucumber, kale and ginger. And lots of ginger. I think it helps with colds, etc. I don't want to be sick on the road.
I like CrossFit because it challenges me in different ways. Dancing, and especially dancing on tour, your body gets used to doing the same show every night. I like to challenge myself with other things like CrossFit because it reminds my body that it needs a challenge.
And I think yoga and Pilates are great for the mind and body. It's definitely like stretching. I don't stretch the way I should; yoga and Pilates force me to do that, which is good and necessary. I also enjoy weight training. I'm naturally thin, and weight training keeps me more muscular. It holds my muscle tone.
Lastly, my fellow dancers and I like to take spin classes on our days off or hot yoga.
Life balance while traveling
This job requires a lot of hard work and dedication. And yes, I have those moments where I'd rather be at a football game than rehearsing. But, it's paid off. I can inspire people with my performances. Work has caused me to miss out on weddings, funerals and more. Lately I've been trying to set time aside for myself, family and fiancé. Personal happiness is key.
Dealing with onstage insecurities
We all have insecurities, but one of the most beautiful things about being a woman is that we're all different. I've never met women that look the same -- body, height, feet -- nothing. I've met people who are just gorgeous on the outside and have cold souls, and it makes them not as beautiful anymore. People [including the audience] should take me as I am. Stretch marks, cellulite or whatever; we all have it.