On Point With: Tyler Ashley, the Dauphine of Bushwick

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photo credit: Santiago Felipe

 

Serving the Tea all over Brooklyn and Manhattan, this fun Bushwick party princess also happens to be a serious dancer and performance artist. She’s bringing the party in an unlikely fashion to the Pines this weekend (but not so unlikely, as she schools us), where she’ll return later in the month for a major art festival. And Bushwig is on the horizon! There are many sides to this dame, so let’s stop wasting time and get to know the Dauphine.


Thotyssey: Hey Tyler, what’s up today? Happy late birthday. I saw videos from last year, and it looks like you regularly do a birthday show on your rooftop. How did it go this year?

Tyler Ashley: Hi! The birthday was massive, as always. Well, I guess it grows every year. But yes, I think it was a success. Had like six DJs, around 15 performances, an installation, slip n’ slide, ya know, ha! But there’s something about doing a party on a big roof like that that just makes people happy. Maybe the open air? The vitamin D?

Oh my gawd, slip n’ slide on the roof!

Yeah, not many people do it, but those that do have fun!  I don’t do a traditional number for the rooftop party, so my slip n’ slide skills are my showz!

You’re a pretty close knit community down there in Brooklyn, right? Like, everybody knows everybody. 

I mean, it’s New York City, so the community even in Brooklyn is pretty large, and I think it’s ever-growing still. But yes, the vibe is very welcoming and open, free and silly. Work hard and give your all, but don’t take it all too seriously. Lots of people know each other, but there’s always a new friend to be made or a new performer to become a fan of. We’re lucky to have such a crazy playground to experiment, fail, succeed, live life, etc.

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[photo credit: Mateus Porto]

So, let’s put you in a neat little package for our readers. 

Love a good package!

You’re a promoter, a host, a drag performer, an artist… what else, and am I accurate so far?

Yes, I am a dance artist and performer–meaning, I make my own work, as well as perform for others. I promote every now and then, and love to host a party. I also have a day job at a nonprofit performance venue in Chelsea called New York Live Arts. Bill T. Jones is the Artistic Director.

Wow, he’s great! And you’re busy. 

Yeah, I like to stay busy. Trying to make something of myself!

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photo credit: Tommy McCall

Where are you originally from?

I’m from a small town in northern New York called Canton.

What were you like growing up?

In some ways, I was pretty much the same. I would be up on my grandparent’s coffee table with a parasol giving shows – mostly singing. I did musical theater, and competed vocally throughout high school. I also played sports.

It was in college that I discovered dance–it was amazing. Finally, it clicked: a combination of physical activity and athleticism with creativity, imagery and openness. I do miss singing though.

I’m sure you still have a lovely voice.

I mean, I can kill some songs at karaoke. But like a tool, the voice gets rusty with no practice. Someday I’ll get back into it.

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photo credit: Lucas Blair

When did you make your way down to the city?

I left the small town to go to Emerson College in Boston, and then moved here the summer after I graduated. Do I have to tell you the year? [laughs] It was a few years ago.

Did you go there the same time as DJ Accident Report /  Eric Shorey? I just talked to him about Emerson a few days ago.

Um, I might have been there just before him, or overlapped! A lot of cool people come out of that school. At least back when we went there.

Where were the first places you were hanging out as a citizen of NYC?

Oh! Hmmm. Most of them were in Manhattan. Although, Metropolitan and Sugarland were my weekly go-tos. But other favs included Bartsch’s and Kenny’s Vandam on Sundays and Frankie Sharp’s Westgay on Tuesdays. I even remember going to this party at the then-Hiro Ballroom at The Maritime– was it on Saturdays or Sundays? Can’t remember the name of the party.

I’ll look it up later! What were you hoping to do here in NYC; were you pursuing dance?

Yes! I graduated with a degree in marketing, but ever since I really fell in love with dance by my junior year, I knew that I would move to NYC to pursue dance.

And you found Brooklyn! How did that part of your life begin?

Brooklyn was just what I needed. [There were] lots of other hustling artists in my neighborhoods. My first jobs in NYC were as a barista and an usher at The Joyce Theater – a dance venue in Chelsea. Shortly thereafter, I started interning at Dance Theater Workshop down the street, which became part-, and then full-, time jobs. I also starting interning for the STREB extreme action company.

From those three points, I met fellow dancers and choreographers I would end up dancing for during the next 5 years–to the present, even.

And how was the Dauphine born?

I was watching Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and there’s the part where she’s pressured by her mother to provide an heir to the throne (get pregnant), or else risk her place as The Dauphine of France. Ha, the drama. And I was tipsy, and was like I’m The Dauphine of Bushwick! I’m under this pressure to create something as a young artist, working hard towards a goal that’s really unknown. It was scary, but also liberating, wild, and exciting.

That’s also around the time that I had a desire to not just attend nightlife things, but to be a part in creating and performing at them. I liked that it was a title, as I just felt it was a heightened side of myself, as opposed to this really separate character. And because titles are such a carry [laughs].

This is probably a loaded question, but what sort of art is it that you’re ultimately trying to create?

Good question! I think I’m on this crazy pathway of figuring that out – it’s a process, right?  But, I do know that I’m going to start to merge my practices in making dance performance with what I love about nightlife gigs. For example, I’m working on a new performance solo that will have my regular dance vices like duration, repetition, and athletic movement, but also now mix in mic work, some drag, and audience interaction. Probably for some kind of gallery or more traditional dance performance space. Though, I think I could make a version for a nightlife space, too.

That would be amazing. So, are the lines between nightlife and art kinda blurry for you, or do the lines not really even exist? 

Of course they’re blurry for me, but also those two things operate on very different systems. For the large part, the art and dance world feature curators and programmers that let you into it all. This kind of thing also exists in nightlife, but I feel that it’s much less rigid. With nightlife, people have to show up, so that the bar makes money, so that the talent makes money, etc. In the dance world, just because an artist doesn’t have a good turnout at the box office, doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t carry on to the next step or get curated elsewhere.

And then there’s the age-old, “Well, art imitates life imitates art, etc..” .so we could go in circles. I think what’s important is to acknowledge exactly how they influence each other, and draw those lines, let them be seen. They help both parties, I would imagine.

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I interviewed Chris of Hur a few months ago, and he showed me this amazing lip sync video he did on a subway and then on a platform and then on the street, all in one take, that you participated in. Well done! That must’ve been very time consuming, to get that right.

Oh fun! I love Hur. She’s a fav. And I’ve been lucky to be in her numbers, both live and in video. I think we might be doing another one sometime. But, yeah that one was fun. I think we talked a lot, walked it out once, and then recorded twice.

And what a great segue to Drag Race! You and Merrie Cherry co-hosted a viewing party and show for RuPaul’s Drag Race at Flowers for All Occasions in the spring. 

Yes, Merrie and I had a blast. I love Flowers and their sister space, Happyfun Hideaway. Everyone should check them out.

Were you there from the POV a fan in that situation, or an outsider?

I was definitely a fan in that situation! I mean, it’s good TV. Well, earlier seasons may better than these current ones, but it’s still an amazing thing that there’s a show that really brings us all out in such a way – it’s like family meal or something [laughs].

What was the mood in the room when Brooklyn goddess Thorgy went home on the show?

Aww, everyone was upset cause she’s our BK legendary beacon! But, ChiChi DeVayne became a big fav, so it was at least like, okay, good competition.

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Speaking of Brooklyn legends, do you miss the venues Lovegun and Sugarland? I hear a lot about them, and I’m sorry I missed out.

Totally miss Sugarland. And I don’t feel like Lovegun was around long enough to really miss it, but I think it’s such a shame that it didn’t work out.

You know what: I do miss it! I miss more spaces that have something individual to offer…and that are LGBT. It was a sexy space. And I love Darren – such a sweetie.

What about Macri Park? I was really surprised to hear that they were flipping into a “video bar” (?) There were so many shows there! Any thoughts as to what happened?

Yeah, I haven’t even heard the total tea yet on that. And I’m not really sure what a video bar is. Like, porn? So all performance shows/parties are out? I don’t know. Maybe it was too similar to Metro, and so it was poaching the parent company? I’m totally guessing here.

Only Otter Box will remain, I think! 

Oh, wow. Well, so it goes. I know all the people that threw parties there, and they are smart and will find a way.

Okay, so back to you! I really wanna talk about Baby Tea, which is gonna be in the Pines this weekend..

Yay, Baby Tea! Yeah, I’ve been doing it as a monthly for almost two years – November is the 2nd anniversary.

Congratulations! Where do you normally do it?

I started it at a bar on LES called Cafe Dancer. They have since closed, so the party has been taking place at Wise Men on The Bowery. Both sexy spots owned and operated by women! Other than that, I’ve done the party last August–and again this coming Saturday [the party is usually on Sunday] in Fire Island Pines.

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I find that so interesting! The Pines is nice, but so many of those people there are so bourgi! What motivates you to bring your Cool People party there?

Yes, so many are bourgi., And so many are simply comfortable with warm and generous hearts! Sorry to be cheesy, but it’s true. I’ve been going out there 6 years now. I was first invited out by a dear lesbian friend couple in Cherry Grove – where I visited a couple of years and continue to absolutely love! It’s a warm, quirky beach town with a pretty diverse body of property owners and renters.

By going out there, I met a couple of curators that then presented a solo dance of mine the following year in The Pines. The couple–in their 60s–that hosted me for the performance weekend are some of the most generous people I know. We became good friends and they have me out all the time; they host and cook for many other emerging artists of all walks of life and backgrounds.

There’s also been a big resurgence of artists and curators bringing more artists, curators, arts, and engagement activities out to the island. For example: the Fire Island Artist Residency in Cherry Grove and BOFFO in The Pines. The residents are supporting these organizations! They are a huge part in bringing out artists of all kinds and sharing in their vision.

I’m so excited to say that I’ll be performing and hosting BOFFO’s Fire Island Performance Festival this August 26-28, which features tons of amazing free programming – and paid – from artists like M. Lamar, SSION, Casey Spooner, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Frankie Sharp, to name a few.

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So, yes there’s annoying, bourgi things out there, but that’s everywhere in NYC. I can say from experience that there’s also a large, and growing, body of people out there that want to de-homogenize the scene and get back to a more integrated, accessible, and artistic space.

Very well said, I stand corrected! And congrats on BOFFO! 

Thank you! Kind of went on a rant, but I just like to share my story and observations to say that I’ve been able to be out there so much and show my work, because of the generosity of a variety of people out there. Sure, I work hard and try to make the best art that I can, but there exists many people out there that do not fit that bourgie, boring, shallow mold.

And after this weekend, the party moves back to Wise Men?

Yes! After this, we’re back to Wise Men for September!

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photo credit: Frank Mullaney


Were you part of the
Bushwig contingent that did a leg of performing in Europe recently?

I was originally part of the plans for Bushwig’s performance at the Yo Sissy Festival in Berlin – we even had a cute fundraiser that I performed at for it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go, but that wasn’t a problem because we have Horrorchata, Untitled Queen, and Merrie Cherry over there repping so well and so hard.had.

The main event is just around the corner… Sept 10th and 11th! Are you excited or nervous or whatevs?

[Laughs] I was just realizing that I need to get my shit together. I’m a performer, and will be nervous and have to pee right up until I step on stage – forever and always. But then the adrenaline kicks in, and it’s all up from there.

Anything else on the horizon for you?

Be on the lookout for a fun collab between Horrorchata and me being announced soon.

Very exciting! Okay last question: what’s one thing the world doesn’t know about the Dauphine, but should?

She’s single! [Laughs]

And she needs an heir! Thanks, Tyler!


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photo credit: Santiago Felipe

Tyler Ashley (aka the Dauphine of Bushwick) will host a special edition of the party Baby Tea on Saturday, August 20th, at the Fire Island Pines (2-8pm). Baby Tea is normally a monthly Sunday party the Dauphine hosts at Wise Men in SoHo, and will return there in September. Tyler will also host and perform at the BOFFO Fire Island Performance Festival at the Pines on August 26th-28th, and is a scheduled performer for Bushwig weekend (September 10th-11th). Follow the Dauphine on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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