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Source: the Swan Dreams Project/Thaler Photography

Dancer Promotes Ballet In Poor Communites Through Inspiring Photos—And We're Cheering

By Chet Dawson

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.
Source: the Swan Dream Project/Thaler Photography

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: