Aesha Ash

Photo Credit: Thaylor Photography

Dancing for Diversity, Equity and Access 

Aesha Ash is the first African American woman hired as permanent faculty at the School of American Ballet in the institution’s 86 year history. 

Born and raised in Rochester, at 13 years old Aesha was accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City, where she was one of the only African American students. At 18, she joined the New York City Ballet corps de ballet, where she danced numerous soloist and principal roles. Even as a young professional dancer, she sought to defy and overcome stereotypes about Black ballet dancers to further her own career, but even more importantly to her, to open doors and change the possibilities for other dancers of color.

Throughout her career as a student at SAB and then a dancer at NYC Ballet she experienced racism and an overwhelming sense of isolation and disconnectedness that contributed to her leaving the company.

In 2008, Ash retired from ballet. After years of freelancing and teaching, she founded the Swan Dreams Project, which uses imagery to convey the message that beauty and talent are not constrained by race or socioeconomic status. Aesha said, “I want our youth to know that they are not limited by stereotypes nor by their environment, but only by their dreams.”

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Footnotes:
  1. Kourlas, Gia. Aesha Ash Takes Her Place at the Head of the Class. New York Times: 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/arts/dance/aesha-ash-american-ballet-faculty.html
  2. Ash, Aesha. The Power Of Imagery: About Me. The Swan Dreams Project: 2020. https://www.theswandreamsproject.org/
  3. Craig, Gary. Trailblazer Aesha Ash chosen as first Black female full-time faculty at School of American Ballet. Democrat and Chronicle: 2020. https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2020/08/21/aesha-ash-school-american-ballet-faculty-makes-history/3400604001/

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