Rockettes’ Pick for Dancer of the Week: Professional Ballerina Breaks Down Stereotypes with Striking Images

Who: Aesha Ash

Her dance:

Why we chose her: No one expected Aesha Ash to become a professional ballerina someday. After all, growing up in urban Rochester, New York, surrounded by images of women of color that were often objectifying or caricatured, she didn’t exactly have anyone to model her dreams after. But for kids and other community members in Rochester today, that’s changing thanks to Ash.

The now-retired ballerina—who joined the New York City Ballet at age 18 and danced with companies all over the world—put on her tutu and hit the streets to make a difference, with a photographer in tow. The outcome? A series of beautiful images featuring the dancer posing in various ballet positions and interacting with residents throughout the community; all to help give community members (especially girls and young women) a new image of women of color to look up to.

In the series, Ash strikes graceful, powerful poses in the midst of everyday life in the community. She is still and ethereal against backdrops of young men playing basketball, friends gathering on a stoop, little girls playing on the sidewalk and more. Her hope is that even if her viewers do not aspire to become dancers, that they will see these images and realize that they too can achieve things that are not expected of them.

What do we love most about these images? They portray the strength and determination of ballerinas everywhere—both physical, and in spirit. Well done, Aesha!

Fun fact: Ash founded The Swan Dreams Project to help promote ballet to African American communities. Head to their Instagram account for more inspiring images!

Rockette kicks (on a scale of 10 to 10!):