Dancer Aesha Ash retired as a professional dancer in 2008, but she might wear her tutu even more often now. Ash grew up in Rochester, New York, and despite rarely seeing images of African American women dancers, she maintained a laser-like focus on her dream of being a ballerina. At 13 she was accepted to the American School of Dance, and she joined the New York Ballet at age 18. But the ads she saw featured women of color in clichéd and stereotypical situations.
Ash told Dance Magazine last year:
I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes. I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of colour in a different light.
Ash wanted to hire an ad agency to place more uplifting images around her city, but when that proved too expensive, she decked out in her own tutu and presented herself to the community, photographer in tow. The point was to capture her interactions with the locals and present familiar city sights in a different light, showing that regardless of your surroundings, your dreams are possible.
Ash founded an organization called The Swan Dream Project, and her efforts are beginning to attract attention:
Twitter users love the images and have found inspiration in Ash's mission:
OMG those little girls being fascinated by her ballerina skills is ADORABLE. All kids should have an opportunity to be exposed to the theater, ballet, and various other artistic ways to express themselves.— Nathaniel Legaard (@natty_ice49ers) January 26, 2018
This photo gives me chills. Sometimes all it takes to change a child's life forever is just a few minutes of one's time to make a connection with them.— Tabarnak (@BirchandMaple) January 26, 2018
Ash's story moved some people to tears:
this made me weepy. when I was 10 Alvin Ailey's dance company performed at my middle school. I was in awe. Been a fan ever since 20+ years— BrookLyn (@BrookLyn1825) January 26, 2018
Made me cry. Happy tears. What a beautiful, wonderful thing to do.— Mara O'Maude (@maraomaude) January 26, 2018
Yes please. THIS:
We need about 1000% more of this in our country... and 100% fewer older white men making decisions that affect the rest of our lives.— James R. Lochhead (@lochhead_james) January 26, 2018
What a beautiful way to be the change you want to see in the world.
Photos are available for sale on The Swan Dreams' website. Schools and students can receive prints for free!