- Former professional ballerina, Aesha Ash, starts The Swan Dreams Project, which intends to show underprivileged children that they can pursue careers in the performing arts.
- The project puts participating students in a one-week camp where they learn the basics of ballet.
- The students also participate in etiquette lessons and take time to reflect on their inner beauty.
Aesha Ash is a former professional ballerina. She spent most of her life dancing that she turned it into her life’s career. She is a member of New York City Ballet, as well as other renowned dance companies around the world.
The ballet dancer advocates for racial diversity in the world of dance. However, since she was often the only African American ballerina in her classes and companies at that time, she found the weight of this responsibility too heavy to bear.
The ballet dancer decided on retirement in 2007. More than a decade later, she set out on a mission to bring her love of dance to low-income communities to show underprivileged children that they can pursue careers in the performing arts. She started The Swan Dreams Project.
The project puts participating students in a one-week camp where they learn the basics of ballet, get an introduction to French which she said is “the language of ballet”, participate in etiquette lessons, and take time to reflect on their inner beauty.
Her first camp was in 2018 in a low-income neighborhood in New York, with most of her students were African American or Latino. This was perfect for what she pictured when she started thinking about this program.
“The Swan Dreams Project’s goal is to convey the message that beauty and talent are not constrained by race or socio-economic status. I want our youth to know that they are not limited by stereotypes nor by their environment, but only by their dreams,” the project’s mission statement reads.
On the final day of camp, the students are all set for their final performance in front of their family and friends. The entire duration of the program pushes the students out of their comfort zones. What better way than to host a dance recital?
The ballet dancer said that she was anxious about the performance. She is worried that since the campers were all between 8 and 11 years old, it would be less of a performance and more chaos. She was surprised, but more comforted that the performance was a blast.
“When we went out to our first circle and the kids began counting in French and performing the steps they had just learned, my heart melted. It was all something I had envisioned since 2011, and I was finally seeing it all come together,” she said.
Aesha is set to continue her work to overcome racial and socioeconomic barriers that hinder individuals from pursuing ballet. She found more people to help better the world of ballet. This weight she once carried becomes bearable.
Source: Inspire More