Meet the Black Ballerina and Entrepreneur Helping People Heal From their Trauma

Tyde-Courtney Edwards, founding director of Ballet After Dark, is a classically trained black ballerina, art model, and survivor of sexual assault who is on a mission to help others heal from their trauma through the art of ballet. Now, during the pandemic, she is helping people unwind and reset their focus on healing virtually as her studio is closed.

Edwards began her journey at the Baltimore School for the Arts and has over 20 years of dance training and experience. She is trained in various styles of dance including classical and contemporary ballet, pointe, modern, lyrical, jazz, tap and hip-hop. And she has trained with esteemed companies such as the  Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Peabody Conservatory, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey and other institutions while receiving training from local dance pioneers such as Anton Wilson and Stephanie Powell.

With myriad dance experience, Edwards was inspired to create trauma-informed ballet classes after overcoming an adverse experience of her own. Ballet After Dark is an organization that provides holistic dance therapy to trauma survivors and other disenfranchised individuals.

Their curriculum introduces participants to various elements of self-care while infusing beginner’s ballet and athletic conditioning. Survivors can expect to develop ballet fundamentals such as technique and terminology while being encouraged to heal in an empowering, trauma-informed environment. The program culminates in a showcase performance that highlights ballet technique learned throughout the program.“

Healing Through the Arts

“I conceptualized Ballet After Dark after struggling with recovery following my own sexual assault. I often say the program was born out of necessity. It was a struggle finding welcoming, safe spaces where other black women were working through trauma while struggling to reconnect with their bodies,” said Edwards.

“The reality I was faced with is that the resources did exist—they just seemed to benefit women that didn’t look like me. I wanted to surround myself with my sisters who had the same feelings and questions that I had. I was desperately searching for the space that would gradually let me feel like myself and allow others into my intimate space again,” she added.

While COVID-19 has forced many small black-owned businesses to close, it has opened the virtual doors for Ballet After Dark.

Black Ballerina
(Image: Ballet After Dark)

Ballet Amid COVID-19

“I like to think that COVID-19 has forced me to explore my creativity and business savvy on a deeper level. While the most devastating impact of the crisis has been not being able to host in-studio classes and workshops for our survivors and allies, we’ve adapted recognizing that there is still opportunity during this otherwise chaotic time.”

She went on to say that while going digital has been an exciting adjustment that is stretching the company in new ways.

“While challenging, it’s definitely not impossible thanks to platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Zoom. In fact, we’ve been able to conceptualize a way for us to host our first virtual trainer-to-trainer workshop series! Happily, even during this pandemic, we’re still able to create opportunities for more women within our community. It pleases my heart to be able to formally announce that we will be hiring virtual instructors,” Edwards shared.

Black Ballerina
(Image: Ballet After Dark)

“The impact virtual classes have had has been extraordinary. We’ve been able to touch and connect with survivors and allies who may have never had an opportunity to experience our curriculum in the studio. We’re planning to roll out our new digital format out at the end of June,” she added.

During quarantine, it is important for people to remain active and engage in activities that promote wellness. Beyond the ‘quarantine 15’, Edwards says the best advice she can offer to others is to be gentle to themselves during quarantine.

“You’re smarter than you think and you’re stronger than you know… if you’re feeling motivated to move or create then do that! Listen to your body and don’t succumb to any pressure in reference to the types and frequencies of activities you should stay engaged in to have a “successful” quarantine. At the root of everything, Ballet After Dark is about healing and self-care and having a transparent realization of what that journey may look like… because it’s going to be different for everyone,” said Edwards.