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Representation matters. Aesha Ash—a former professional ballerina—is bringing her love of dance to low-income communities to show underprivileged children that they can pursue careers in the performing arts, Indy100 reported.

Donned in her leotard and tutu Ash—a native of Rochester, New York—pliés and pirouettes down the streets of her hometown catching the attention of youngsters who try to emulate her moves. The dancer, who studied at the School of American Ballet and was a part of the New York City Ballet, once stood in the shoes of these young girls and didn’t let her circumstances determine her future.

After retiring in 2008, Ash set out on a mission to use her platform to drive social impact. In 2011 she founded an organization dubbed 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,” read her website. “While exposing more African-American communities to the ballet, I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form.”

There is a need for more racial diversity in the world of dance. According to Data USA, 79.1 percent of dancers and choreographers are white. Several organizations throughout the country have been working to change the narrative and expose youth of color to dance. Amongst some of the organizations include Brown Girls Do Ballet, Kids Dance Outreach, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre and the American Dance Movement.


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