All in the Family: Jake and Ashton Roxander Wear Their Father’s Costume in Respective Puck Debuts
Ballet is in the very DNA of the Roxander brothers and so, it appears, is the role of Puck. Ashton, 25, and Jake, 21, are sons of ballet dancers David and Elyse Roxander. Trained by their parents at their ballet school, Studio Roxander, in Medford, Oregon, both are now enjoying successful professional careers; Ashton is a principal dancer with Philadelphia Ballet and Jake is a corps de ballet member with American Ballet Theatre.
The brothers both debut this season in their respective companies as Puck in Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream. (Jake, in fact, just performed the role at the David H. Koch Theater in October. Ashton will make his debut in May 2024 at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music.) What’s more, they’ve been reunited with the exact costume their father wore 40 years ago in National Ballet of Canada’s production of the same ballet.
It all began in November 2022, when Ashton was called to a photo shoot for Philadelphia Ballet’s 2023–24 season. The company, like ABT, borrows costumes and sets from NBoC’s production of The Dream. Digging through a pile of costumes set aside for the shoot, he was surprised to find a pair of Puck tights already labeled “Roxander.” They were in pretty bad shape—the elastic waistband had completely eroded over time—but sure enough, they were his father’s tights from his time at NBoC.
Ashton says, “I think roles and ballets like this give us an opportunity to look back and appreciate the things and people that have brought us to this moment. It’s a beautiful thing to want to emulate our predecessors. It’s a concept that goes beyond family and is represented in this art that has stood the test of time. But for us it’s simple—our hero has always been our dad.”
One year later and one state away, Jake had almost the exact same experience. In his recent costume fitting for ABT, he was told that there was already a Puck costume with his name on it. When Jake explained that he’d never performed the role before, the costumer fitting him was confused. When the fitter pulled out the costume, Jake wrote on Instagram, “I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up because I knew at that moment exactly what was happening.”
ABT borrows much of The Dream production from NBoC, and David’s Puck costume was included among the others. It fit Jake as if it were made for him—and in a way, it was. “Just when you think life is simply pure chaos, there are these moments that take you full circle and remind you that everything happens for a reason,” he wrote.
David danced for NBoC for 17 years, during which he became well known for his portrayal of Puck. He worked extensively with Sir Frederick Ashton and then artistic director Alexander Grant.
“When my boys were little, I simply wanted them to find and follow their bliss,” says David. “To my pleasant surprise, that ‘bliss’ was the same as mine. Now that they have moved away, we still get the opportunity to share our life experience and our time together.”
Ashton acknowledges the important part his family has played in his career trajectory. “Having an exposure to ballet and art always influenced me as a young man. It’s sad more boys don’t get that. I never felt for a second that ballet was anything other than heroic or that the path of the artist was one not worth pursuing.”
Ashton and Jake feel honored to simultaneously carry on their family name in ballet and pave their own paths through the art form. “I’ll do my utmost to live up to the Roxander name in that costume and continue what now—with myself, my big brother, and my father—seems to be becoming a legacy,” Jake wrote on Instagram.
David concludes by saying, “My heart swells with pride every day as I watch them take ballets and the art that I love so much and transcend anything I could have done myself.”