Spring Concert Blog Series: Aesha Ash

2019’s Spring Concert

In preparation for our Spring Concert on April 6th and 7th, we’ve chosen the graceful Aesha Ash as the next artist of the 1980’s to present to spotlight.

Aesha Ash posing for the Swan Dreams Project.

Artist Description

Aesha Ash started dancing at the age of 5 years old in Rochester, NY because her older sister wanted to dance. Her sister moved on to cheerleading, but Aesha fell in love with jazz and tap, dreaming of performing on Broadway. As she got older, she excelled in competitions, but they caused her a lot of anxiety. When she decided to move away from competing, she found her love for ballet.

That love, however, came with the pain of both overt and implicit expressions of racism. Aesha was a black girl in the predominantly white world of ballet in a suburban area, which made her a target for ridicule. At the age of 14, she moved to New York City to dance at the School of American Ballet which led to her entry to the New York City Ballet. While dancing with them, her father and sister both died of cancer.

 

Body of Work

Aesha Ash showing girls in her home town of Rochester her pointe.

Aesha attended the School of American Ballet, then was corps de ballet in the New York City Ballet. She then went on to become a soloist with the Béjart Ballet in Switzerland for two years before returning to the US, joining the Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco. She performed with Alonzo King LINES Ballet for three years until her retirement in 2008. Over the course of her dance career, she had a documentary made about her and performed as a dance double in feature films.

 

Impact

After her retirement from dancing, Aesha wanted to use her platform to expose young African American girls to ballet. She did so by creating the Swan Dreams Project, a photography series of Ash dancing in low-income neighborhoods and the reactions of locals. According to the Swan Dreams Project’s mission, “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.” In response to the adversity she faced in the ballet world as a black young woman, the Swan Dreams Project was created to challenge the stereotype of what a ballet dancer looks like.


For more information about TAYB’s Annual Spring Concert click here. 

Spring Concert Blog Series: Prince

2019’s Spring Concert

In preparation for our Spring Concert on April 6th and 7th, we’ve chosen Prince Rogers Nelson as the next artist of the 1980’s to present to spotlight.

Prince V Mag

Prince for V Magazine in 2013.

Artist Profile

Prince is known for his flamboyant style and emotional ballads. Both of his parents were musicians and he wrote his first song at seven years old. He grew up extremely poor, once saying in an interview that as a child he would stand outside of McDonald’s just to smell the food; at the time of his death in 2016, his net worth was around $200 million. 

Prince released his debut album at 19 years old, on which he played all 27 instruments. His philosophy toward music was unique. He disliked working on a piece for too long and constantly wanted to move forward in his music. He claimed to record a new song every day, resulting in an impressive breadth of work.

 

Body of Work

Prince Guitar

Prince performing Purple Rain

Prince released a total of 39 albums in his lifetime and one posthumous album. He was a musical force to be reckoned with. In addition to those released album, there are rumored to be 50 full length albums of unreleased music in a vault at his private residential compound, Paisely Park.

While he produced the majority of his work as a solo artists, he formed several short-lived bands throughout his career. As a skilled instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, and writer, his work extended to tens of other artists aside from his own impressive discography.

 

Impact

Many artists cite Prince as an influence. He helped shape the sound of 80’s funk through his use of synthesizers and drum machines. Over 50 hit songs by other artists credit him as a songwriter, and he wrote even more under at least four pseudonyms. 

It can be argued that Prince’s style was as influential as his music; his outfits and makeup disrupted gender norms and expectations. His style was so key to his artistic persona that he employed ten live-in tailors at Paisely Park. After his death, figures from musical artists to then-president Barrack Obama expressed their admiration and sympathy for the late performer. 


For more information about TAYB’s Annual Spring Concert click here. 

Spring Concert Blog Series: Basquiat

2019’s Spring Concert

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet is excited to announce that this year’s Spring Concert will be themed in the period of the 1980s to present! Our Spring Concert will be April 6th and 7th this year. To prepare for the Spring Concert, we will be publishing a series of blog posts spotlighting different artists of the era.

Self-portrait Basquiat completed in 1983.

Artist Profile

Jean-Michel Basquiat started as a street graffiti artist in Brooklyn.His parents began taking him to art museums at a young age. As a result, Basquiat came to admire Picasso and Warhol, whose influences are evident in his work. He began selling sweaters and postcards featuring his artwork around New York. As a self-taught artist, his style is raw and emotive. His work is also fiercely political. In his works, he critiqued consumerism and systems of racism.

 

Body of Work

Untitled (Top Left), Fishing (Top Right), and Grillo (Bottom)

Basquiat incorporated a lot of skulls in his work in a characteristic crayon-like style. He also completed several self-portraits. In his career as an artist, he produced over 1,500 drawings and around 600 paintings.

Impact

Basquiat rose to fame with the Neo-Expressionist wave. Much of his work surrounded the exploration of black identity. Not having the representation of royalty to draw from that white Europeans do, he included the motif of a crown in his works to emphasize the power of everyday black people.

One of the goals of his work was to bring black bodies to the visible forefront of the Western cultural canon. He succeeded in doing so, both in his works and in becoming an artistic legend himself.


For more information about TAYB’s Annual Spring Concert click here.