Brown Girls Do Ballet: A social media photo project turned global organization, this non-profit org was started by a mother seeking to empower underrepresented ballerinas to follow their dreams in ballet.
But first...here's what Brown Girls Do Ballet founder TaKiyah Wallace has to say about ConnexFW:
"I love CONNEX! I’ve been here for two years and not only has the community welcomed us, but we are in the heart of where I’d like to see the greatest impact of Brown Girls Do Inc for personal reasons. I grew up in the neighborhood and it’s always been my goal to come back and provide arts programming for the little girls like me."
Brown Girls Do Ballet is a registered 501(c)3 that promotes diversity in the arts, especially underrepresented disciplines such as ballet, and helps connect ballerinas with studios and programs that are committed to promoting diverse participation.
Wallace identified a surprising lack of cultural diversity when searching for ballet schools for her daughter. Her concern grew from a photography project that highlighted girls of African, Asian, East Indian, Hispanic and Native American ancestry performing ballet, to a full-fledged organization with ambassadors, mentorship programs, scholarships, ballet studio grants, a podcast, photo exhibitions, and much more.
"Brown Girls Do Ballet truly began as an accident," says found Takiyah Wallace, whose been featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show, The Dallas Observer, Black Enterprise, The Washington Post and more. "I started shooting ballerinas of color, created an Instagram...and the audience grew like wildfire. The organization launched a few months later with the sole purpose of increasing the participation of girls of color in ballet programs."
"...Our team is tiny but might," continued Wallace. "Operations are conducted by myself, our project manager Shirolyn, and a host of amazing young interns."
Some of the more eye-opening initiatives include the Pointe Shoe Program, and Variation in Hue.
The Pointe Shoe program was started to address a major concern for young ballerinas - keeping pointe shoes updated. Pointe shoes cost anywhere from $60-$120 and wear out very quickly. If a ballerina goes to an hour long class once a week, their pointe shoes will last about three months. This means aspiring ballerinas spend approx. $29,000 on pointe shoes alone over the course of a seven-year period. This d young ballerinas to be forced to give up on their dreams and hobbies over shoes, so donations of gift cards to major retailers (and of course cash) are the best way to combat this issue.
One of the more eye-opening movements BGDB represents was actually started by a high school student and ballerina Qunicy Wilson. Wilson got tired of wearing suntan or pale colored tights that have been the 'norm' in dance studios since, well, ever. Wilson says suntan and pale-colored tights work well for her lighter skinned peers, but not for girls of color. She made inroads with her high school coach to wear darker tights, but was criticized by her peers who said it looked 'weird', or 'not normal'. So Wilson set out to change the ballet world's perspective. "I believe black and brown dancers should have equal opportunities to wear accessories and costumes that not only match, but accentuate our skin color both on and off stage," she said. Read more about how to donate to this cause here.
"Of all of our programs, the one we are proudest of is our mentorship program," said Wallace. "BGDB Ambassadors (mentees) are charged with spreading positivity about the role that diversity plays in the realm of classical ballet. They are the defensive line for combatting negative stereotypes about dancers of color and serve as role models
Wallace was also excited to share a program that will be offered to the 76104 community. "We're working on a program to take place at Southside Rec Center to provide free dance classes for ages 4-8. Classes will be taught by young dancers in our mentorship program with guest appearances by professional dancers from around the country"
Wallace says her favorite part of her work is watching kids grow into leaders and well-rounded dancers. "It's happening rather organically and makes me so proud."
When she's not changing the ballet world, Wallace says her two kiddos keep her busy, "When I'm not working, I can usually be found playing taxi for my 8 and 12 year old. I recently became a soccer mom, so that's been scary."