Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Ballerina selected for Bolshoi’s stateside summer program



Ashlee Murphy has been dancing ballet since she was 3 years old.

“I just really enjoyed dancing and I gave it my all,” said the resident of the Sifton neighborhood. “I really put my emotions into it.”

Ashlee, 11, has trained with teacher Maricar Drilon at Northwest Classical Ballet and danced in many local and national productions, companies and competitions, from “Cinderella” and “The Wizard of Oz” with Vancouver Dance Theater to stints with the Tremaine Dance Convention, the Dance Theater of Harlem and the Joffrey Ballet in New York.

Now, Ashlee is getting ready to train with one of the top ballet schools in the world: the 235-year-old Bolshoi Ballet Academy, which is based in Moscow but offers classes at a couple American locations to students who pass an audition. Ashlee and some pals went to Seattle to try out last month; a couple weeks later she learned she would be among only 30 American children admitted to the Bolshoi Summer Intensive in Middlebury, Conn.

The audition “was really nerve-racking. They didn’t talk to me or anything. I just tried my best,” Ashlee said.

Ashlee’s mom, Sherry, is finding the cost of the three-week residential program pretty nerve-wracking, too, but she’s envisioning everything from church fundraisers to special dance performances to raise several thousand dollars. One fundraiser is already set for 3 p.m. March 3 at Clark College. Tickets are being sold at Beacock Music, 1420 S.E. 163rd Ave. in east Vancouver. Admission is $15 (cash or checks only, no credit cards accepted). Plus, there’s a donation account set up under Ashlee’s name at any US Bank.

“Let them live their dreams,” Sherry said.

The program of studies at Bolshoi isn’t all hard work, by the way; there’ll also be Russian language, ballet history, photography, music appreciation, trips into New York City to absorb dance performances and Broadway shows — plus standard summer camp stuff such as swimming and bonfires.

— Scott Hewitt

B.G. author pens self-help book

Stephanie Buslach sought to produce something positive out of her experience with depression as a teenager.

In between her part-time job and attending college courses, she wrote “The Bars That Once Condemned Me,” a book that she hoped would reach out to other teens struggling with depression.

“When I was going through depression, my family and friends gave me several self-help books but none of them really helped me — they were very black and white, very scientific and matter of fact. They didn’t touch on the emotional and spiritual aspect of dealing with depression. I really felt like there needed to be a book that addresses that,” Buslach said.

“It’s a self-help book, but there’s a lot of personal testimony to it,” she said. Much of the book revolves around entries from Buslach’s own journal, which she would often turn to as an outlet for her own feelings.

“I love to write. It’s a challenge for me. I don’t think I’m an amazing writer, but I enjoy it and I love it,” she said. Buslach was surprised to hear that readers who hadn’t gone through depression were getting just as much out of her self-help stories as those she hoped to reach.

Now 23 years old, the Battle Ground resident finds time for writing has been replaced by her two little boys. That doesn’t stop Buslach from thinking about what subject she’d like to tackle in her next book.

“When my first son was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, which I never heard about until I went through it. It’s not talked about very much, even though one in 1,000 mothers experience it,” she said.

Buslach’s book is available at online retailers including and

— Ashley Swanson

Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Ruth Zschomler, 360-735-4530, or email