Aesha Ash, a former professional ballerina, is bringing her passion for dance to low-income communities to show underprivileged children that they can pursue careers in the performing arts, according to indy100.com.
After retiring in 2008, Ash set out on a mission to use her platform to drive social impact. In 2011, she founded the Swan Dreams Project which aims to combat racial and socioeconomic barriers that hinder individuals from pursuing ballet.
“I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women by showing the world that beauty is not reserved for any particular race or socio-economic background,” Ash said. According to Data USA, 79.1 percent of dancers and choreographers are white.
Many factors contribute to ballet’s lack of diversity: economic inequality, because ballet training is notoriously expensive; a lack of role models for aspiring dancers to emulate; a failure on the part of schools and companies to provide support for young dancers of color on the uphill road to professional success. Another factor looms large in the discussion: Many believe a thread of racism still runs through the ballet world, according to pointemagazine.com. “There are people who define ballet in a very specific and historic sense and think it should look like the Mariinsky in 1950,” said American Ballet Theatre executive director Rachel Moore.
Representation means something, it is important for little girls of color to know that they can grow up to be the next Misty Copeland, Raven Wilkinson, or Carmen de Lavallade.
Several other organizations throughout the country have been working to change the narrative and expose youth of color to dance. Among some of the organizations: Brown Girls Do Ballet, Kids Dance Outreach, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and the American Dance Movement.
“While exposing more African American communities to the ballet, I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form,” Ash said.