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  • When I do my work, I want it to have this real visceral reaction whether it's bringing them to tears, whether it's inspiring them.

  • I want to show the world that beauty and grace are not defined by status or race.

  • My name is Aesha Ash, and through the use of ballet, I expose my community to more positive images of women of color.

  • - That's crazy. - That's where it all began.

  • Wow, so this is it.

  • Aesha grew up in the inner city of Rochester, New York, where crime, gun violence and poverty were amongst the biggest threats to the community.

  • For us, that's normal.

  • That's just life in the hood, but what I remember the most is the dance studio.

  • I started dancing all together at the age of five.

  • A teacher mentioned to my mother that I had some promise in ballet and that it would be difficult for me, as a woman of color, to enter the ballet world.

  • But the adversity she faced was the very thing that pushed her to pursue a career in ballet.

  • She went on to become one of the few women of color to ever grace the stages of New York City Ballet School of American Ballet.

  • I felt like my entire career was catching up, and then, being a black woman in the ballet world,

  • I felt like I had to work twice as hard because of that as well, and there's so much negative stereotyping and misrepresentations of who we are perpetuated in the media.

  • So, I began the Swan Dreams Project in 2011.

  • Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I challenge stereotypes that exist for women of color, particularly those from inner-city communities.

  • I didn't see anyone that had left the inner city of Rochester, New York, and come back here, and sort of expose all of use to look what you can become, look what I went off to do.

  • Aesha put on her tutu, grabbed a photographer, and started making her way through the very streets where she grew up.

  • And it was very profound the impact that I got back, especially from the people on the street.

  • Thank you, thank you for that.

  • There was the one image that went viral of me with the little girls, and I just pulled them to the side, just started doing some ballet class.

  • And that's when I realized I had something.

  • This has to be bigger than this.

  • And it began morphing and changing, and then people began asking for appearances.

  • Good job!

  • Who's next? Let me see you.

  • It's important that our girls see that side of themselves because for many kids, it's hard to be what you can't see.

  • I didn't see a black ballerina before.

  • I decided that's what I wanted to be.

  • It was really important for me to be in my environment displaying that because this is where I'm from.

  • It was always beyond ballet.

When I do my work, I want it to have this real visceral reaction whether it's bringing them to tears, whether it's inspiring them.

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B1 US GreatBigStory ballet york rochester began career

She’s Bringing Ballet to the Streets of New York

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/05/10
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