A group of little ballerinas at iRule Dance Studio in Texas showed us all how far black women and girls have come.
When you think of ballet, black ballerinas probably don't factor into the image you conjure up in your head. However, a group of young black ballerinas is here to change the status quo. The little girls who learn ballet at iRule Dance Studio in Beaumont, Texas, are usually dedicated to their dance schedules. However, they decided to take a little break and stage a photoshoot. Inspired by Misty Copeland, the famous black ballerina, the little ballerinas donned their fierce leotards and posed for a series of powerful images, PEOPLE Magazine reports. The shoot was photographed by Brandie Perry of Bee Photography.
The photoshoot was initially intended to be an opportunity for the young girls to bond, but it quickly turned into something far more symbolic. As black women aren't too common in ballet, the photoshoot has become a force for empowerment. As one would expect, the shoot has gone viral. Angela Malonson, a mom whose seven-year-old daughter Falon has been part of iRule since she was only three years old, noted, "All [the group wants] to do is have fun and they still don’t understand how big of a deal this is. Maybe once they’re older and can reflect back on the moment, they will see all of the positivity. It’s a wonderful feeling."
The idea for the shoot was proposed by the girls' families, who were excited about being able to show off their daughters and their abilities. The girls typically have incredibly packed schedules, therefore, the shoot only took place earlier this month. Photographer Perry, who also has a daughter at the studio, said, "These girls are dedicated. When I say dedicated, I mean dedicated." Malonson agreed, adding, "These girls work so hard, and although they don’t complain about it, sometimes we like to do something fun. It just so happened to be February and what better month to do [the photo shoot] in honor of Black History Month."
For the shoot, the young ballerinas gathered at downtown Beaumont in black leotards, pink tights, and, of course, matching ballet slippers. Though they were all wearing identical outfits, their personalities all shone through. That's partly because of Perry's art direction. "Even if it’s a group of girls, I love each one of them to have their own little thing, each one of them [to] shine a little bit," she shared. "You can tell the personality in each one of these girls." She also gave us a look into what drove her vision for the photoshoot. Perry revealed, "I wanted it to be a fierce, in-your-face picture, but show their softness too." Without a doubt, she has been able to capture the duality of the fierce and the soft in this shoot. Some of the photos include the girls striking power poses while others feature them laughing and joking around.
Ultimately, the shoot is so powerful because it reminds us of the space black women have built for themselves in fields that they were traditionally barred from. "We just don’t see a lot of people that look like her... People of color, brown people that take ballet," Perry said. "Misty Copeland came along and paved the way. There weren’t very many people for little girls of color to look up to." This point was driven home after the photos were developed. When iRule founder and owner CharLee Hanna-Rule saw them, she was deeply moved. "When I saw [the pictures], I obviously choked up," she shared. "To see [the photos], I was so proud... I’m a big believer that, no matter who you are, if you want to dance in my studio, it’s a place for you. It doesn’t matter your size or color or anything."
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 21, 2020.