I am very excited to present to you Aesha Ash.

When I was growing up in NYC, I was lucky enough to see Aesha in performance with New York City Ballet. She was hard to miss, because she was the ONLY black girl. There has been a lot of talk lately about “black ballerinas”…Her skin color is not what kept my attention though, it was Aesha’s great dancing. It was always a pleasent surprise when she stepped on the stage and when she did, my friends and I would look at each other and say, very quietly of course,”Aesha is dancing…Yes!”….. Actually it was more like yaaaaaaassssss!…to be exact. Even then, she was a hero to me.

I have not seen her with the other companies she has worked with, although a few online videos reveal her dancing with Alonzo King Lines Ballet and WOW! She really looks fantastic in his work. It was nice to see her move that way after years of watching her dance Balanchine at New York State Theater.

Aesha was born in Rochester, New York, and started dance at the age of five. At 13 years old she enrolled at the School of American Ballet in New York City. Aesha has been a professional ballet dancer for 13 years. She Joined the New York City Ballet at the age of 18, where she remained for eight years dancing numerous soloist and principal roles. Aesha then moved to Europe to dance with the legendary Bejart Ballet, in Lausanne Switzerland, as a soloist. After enjoying success in Europe, she returned to the United states in 2005 where she became a member of Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet.

After a tremendous amount of growth and learning, Aesha decided to freelance. During this time she also worked with “Morphoses”, founded by Christopher Wheeldon. Aesha has been featured in Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle among others. She was also featured in the New York City Ballet Workout II video, Barbie Nutcracker, as well the principal dance double for Zoe Saldana in the movie Center Stage.

Over the years, the more I learned about Aesha the more she inspired me. Even after her career, she continues to use her art for good with “The Swan Dreams” project. The Swan Dreams Project was inspired by Aesha’s experience with doubt, insecurity, anger, inner resolve, determination and faith as she pursued a professional ballet career as an African-American woman from the inner city. The Swan Dreams Project’s goal is to convey the message that beauty and talent are not constrained by race or socio-economic status…they are not limited by their environment, only by their dreams.

When I contacted Aesha for this interview, she was so kind and polite. Her energy is great! It was nice to connect with her. Thank you Aesha for your many years of beautiful performances and I look forward to the many more years of inspiration to come!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always want to do what you’re doing now?

As a child, there was a moment that I wanted to become an Archeologist. When we began learning about great archeological finds in grade school, I became completely fascinated with it. I remember digging up my backyard and the neighborhood park, hoping to find some great historical treasure. Not sure what I was thinking to find in Upstate NY.

Aesha’s Favorite Things

When it comes to favorites of anything, it is always hard for me to narrow it down. Like dance, I love diversity…I crave it. Having one food satisfy all the desires of my palate is the same with trying to find one ballet that fulfills me artistically, or one form of dance for that matter. I love it. Just the thought of narrowing down to one draws me to thinking about the other. This type of thinking doesn’t carry over into relationships thankfully. LOL!

I like dancers who…

I love those who are more than dancers, but in fact artists.

I am afraid of…

…people without compassion.

A dance piece should…

A dance piece should draw in both artist and audience.

Something you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending quality time with my husband and two kids. The simple things in life are truly the sweetest.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Walking while distracted can produce some very embarrassing and sometimes painful outcomes. Enough said!

Who has been the most influential person/people in your life? or Career? and why?

My family has been the most influential in my life. They are individuals who exhibit great faith and perseverance. They have all been through so many storms and nothing has broken them. It is their examples of strength, faith and resiliency that has carried me throughout my career.

Do you have any goals you still wish to achieve?

Something that made me pursue ballet in the beginning. I would like to show the world that grace and beauty are not defined by race or socio- economic status, as well as inspire more young girls ( especially those of color ) to look beyond the stereotyped and media portrayed version of themselves.

A question you want to know the answer to?

Why do horrible things sometimes happen to the best people?

Dear aspiring artists,

Never put limitations on yourself, nor allow others the ability to assign them to you. At the same time, be kind to yourself – we can be our own worst enemies. Lastly, never lose your ability to laugh. Especially, at yourself!

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To find out more information on Aesha, check out The Swan Dreams Project.Have you worked with Aesha? Have you seen her perform? Help me say thank you by sharing your stories in the comments below. Thank YOU for reading!

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Photos by : Renee Scott Photography

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