The former ballerina and Rochester native Aesha Ash retired in 2008 after performing professionally for 13 years. She now focuses her attention on empowering women of color and children from underprivileged communities. She spent Tuesday with students at the Renaissance Academy Charter School in Greece.
"Sometimes the most powerful image is the one that you don't see, and so I noticed that as a ballerina, not seeing women who looked like me. But not only that, in leading the dance world, you see picture books, and cartoons, magazines and you see women of color presented every other way but what you're trying to achieve as a ballerina," said Ash.
That's why she founded the "Swan Dreams Project", to show the world that beauty isn't reserved for any particular race, or status. Her project focuses on the "Power of Imagery", in which Ash visited inner city neighborhoods in Rochester and elsewhere, capturing images of her interacting with people while wearing her ballerina slippers and tutu. On Tuesday, she held a dance teaching session with kids in the school's "Encore Program" an after school ballet class.
"It's sponsored entirely by contributions, so that our children are able to experience arts beyond just the regular day's classes. This way, they are able to dig deeper and learn more about a certain art form, such as ballet," said Nan Westervelt, the Director of Arts for Renaissance Academy Charter School.
Ash is now married, and lives in Califorina with her two children, but says that she's always considered Rochester her home.