By Gary Craig
21 August 2020
Once a teenager at the renowned School of American Ballet, Aesha Ash knows how moving and significant it would have been to have a teacher who looked like herself.
Now she will be that teacher.
“For Black women and people of color, to feel they belong in these institutions we have to see ourselves,” Ash said this week.
Ash, a 42-year-old Rochester native, has long been a trailblazer, knocking down racial walls in the largely white world of professional ballet.
She once was the sole Black female ballerina with the New York City Ballet, and, now, she has been chosen as the first Black female full-time instructor at the School of American Ballet, or SAB, in New York City. Teenagers and younger dancers study and train at SAB, an associate school of the New York City Ballet.
In a recent article, The New York Times highlighted Ash’s appointment with a headline that in part stated: “This former City Ballet dancer becomes the first Black female member of the School of American Ballet’s permanent faculty. Yes, it’s a big deal.”
Such a big deal that Ash, her husband, and their two young children — a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son — decided to move from the California neighborhood they love to Manhattan for her to take on the faculty job.
“The reason why we made the decision is because this position goes so much bigger than just a ballet teacher at a prestigious school,” Ash said in a telephone interview this week from her new Manhattan home. “The historic meaning of this position was just something we could not look away from. It was my husband who was telling me, ‘Aesha, this is something you stand for. This has been your work from the very beginning.’ ”
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