Introducing Gina Aswell

Introducing Gina Aswell

Gina began her studies with Hebert Dancentre and Lafayette Ballet Theatre, in Louisiana. After
studying with the Joffrey Ballet School for four summers, she received a scholarship and studied

in New York with the Joffrey BFA Program at New School University. When the program
dissolved after just one year, she went back to her roots and acquired a BFA in Dance from the
University of Louisiana. During her studies, she continued to dance with Lafayette Ballet
Theatre and began teaching ballet at several dance studios in the area, whose owners saw the
value of a ballet education, but weren’t confident in teaching it themselves. After graduation,
life led her to Jackson, Miss., where she received a Master’s of Science in communications and was the Public Relations Assistant for the USA International Ballet Competition.

For the next 10 years, Gina was the public relations manager for Visit Jackson/Jackson CVB, the Associate Director of Downtown Lafayette, and a Senior Brand Strategist for RUSSO.
Throughout this time, she never stopped teaching and setting traditional ballet works for local
dance studios. In 2016, the Louisiana economy was starting to descend into a recession, and
she decided to focus on the passion that never left but was moved to the background, dance.

Under the direction of Clare Cook, Gina became the ballet master for Basin Arts Dance
Collective, the only professional modern dance company and the first professional dance
company to emerge in the region in 30 years. The company dancers she works with have also
performed with the Limon Dance Company, Dance Heginbotham, Joy Davis, Karole Armitage
and many others. Additionally, she has taught and set work for more than 10 dance studios
across Louisiana since 2016. She also attended the teacher training course at Central
Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in 2019.

Gina created a new contemporary ballet for the UL dance department in 2018, Through the
Movement and recently staged Pas de Quatre with UL dance department director, Marie
Broussard, in November 2022. She was awarded an ArtSpark Grant in 2019 and was the artistic director and choreographer for her professional work, Every Place We Ever Lived.
Who makes up your art circle & how do you expand your art circle?
As dancers, we are fortunate to build a community immediately, as it starts in a group class. Along the way, you tackle different ballets with various directors and a community of dancers, and your circle begins to form. My main mentor, Cathy Hebert, is like my second mom. Because we have worked together for nearly four decades, we can anticipate one another and creating together feels like magic at times. People talk about safe spaces in a group environment, but I think having a mentor and collaborator  who can receive and give criticism is even more important. She’s one of my “safe persons”. We can disagree, experiment, express doubt, challenge each other and be sympatico without emotions getting in the way. It’s always about the end product and all of the ups and downs of the creative process are fun when it’s with her and my other members of the circle. Through her, I have formed exceptional bonds with the very talented Paige Barnett, Nicole Curtis and Marie Broussard, and have collaborated with each of them creating ballets and contemporary works. Since we all have Cathy in common, it’s so easy to work with these creators. There’s a shorthand and an understanding that respect and love of creation come before any of the normal dramatics that can come with dance.
When I met Clare Cook, we were learning the Beyonce dance to “Single Ladies” to perform with a band at the Schilling Shack just for fun back in 2010, while she was in town for the summer. It was kismet when she moved back to town, and I jumped at the chance to work with her to develop a ballet program for Basin Arts and the BDC. Through Clare, I have been able to work with several BDC dancers and Jasmine Bertrand most recently, expanding my circle. The expansion is natural as each project brings new people into your life. It’s a gift to have such a wonderful community to work with and be inspired by.  
What value do you see in having a creative community?
I am not going to lie…I regularly operate with a huge amount of imposter syndrome. So, beyond the value of having fun creating with a group of people – because it truly is fun – what I mainly need from my circle is reassurance. Not affirmation, but just the reassurance that I am not a total fraud who doesn’t know what they are doing. I go through that toxic train of thought in varying degrees at various times throughout my creative process. It’s nice to have people mentally pour cold water on me and tell me to snap out of it. They remind me that it’s important that my vision is seen through and not the approval of others. Besides, praise and approval, once you receive it, isn’t as fabulous as you think it’s going to be.
How does your artistic approach contribute to your community?
I don’t have some sort of revolutionary artistic approach. I try to make the work that I would enjoy watching and has meaning for the audience. Partly because I am an Opelousas native, my favorite work was created with Paige Barnett and Aileen Bennett, and took place in Opelousas Main Street. We wanted to activate a space with potential and create a performance that would not only be something that wasn’t normally done in that community but also something that resonated with them. I truly think we achieved that goal. In summation, I think intention behind a work can make a contribution. Your piece doesn’t have to be dripping with intention in every movement of brush stroke; it just has to begin and end with the same motivation in mind.