What could be more magical? You’re a young child, shooting baskets or playing in front of your house with your friends, when all of a sudden a beautiful ballerina in a tutu appears and begins dancing right there before your eyes.
When she was a child in Rochester, New York, Aesha Ash knew that when she grew up, she wanted to be a ballerina. Despite the challenges, she worked hard and at the age of 13 she was accepted into the School of American Ballet. At 18 she joined the prestigious New York City Ballet.
After she retired from performing in 2008, Ash founded The Swan Dreams Project, dedicated to promoting the art of ballet in poor neighborhoods and changing stereotypes and misconceptions about black women.
Saddened by the clichéd and uninspiring images of women that she saw when she was a girl, she decided to recast that image personally. One of the primary ways she has done so is by visiting these neighborhoods personally — not in schools or lecture halls, but on streets and playgrounds. And not by talking, but by dancing.
On her website Aesha Ash expresses her mission like this:
Through the use of imagery and my career as a ballet dancer, I want to help change the demoralized, objectified and caricatured images of African-American women by showing the world that beauty is not reserved for any particular race or socio-economic background.
I wish for this message to infuse the ballet world and project to the entire world. While exposing more African-American communities to the ballet, I also hope to promote greater involvement and increase patronage to this beautiful art form.
To see a short video of photos of Aesha Ash dancing on the streets, click here and scroll down to the video.

Beauty can uplift, inspire, and empower. And beauty is not just what we see around us but how we move in the world… and how we give back to the world.

— Trebbe Johnson

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:


  • Merlin 186735474 80396bb6 34d0 4f2e 940b 85fba2bbff9a SuperJumbo

A New Coat for a Venerable Tree

A beautiful 140-year-old hemlock at the artist Frederic Church’s estate and museum, Olana, in Hudson, New York, died a few months ago of natural causes. Jean Shin, a sculptor who specializes in using cast-off objects [...]

  • Overland Park

The Beauty of Wounded Places

When we say a place is wounded, we mean it can no longer do what it once did. It is disabled. It’s a force of life that has fallen on hard times and is struggling [...]

More Revealed



Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.