TaKiyah Wallace never planned on starting an organization that celebrates and supports girls of color who want to be ballerinas, but that’s exactly what happened. When Wallace was looking for a dance school for her then 3-year-old daughter, she noticed something was missing: brown girls.
At the time, Wallace’s daughter hadn’t been enrolled in day care or school, so she wanted to find a dance academy where she’d feel completely at ease. “Her hair was not long and flowing, and she wears her Afro proudly,” Wallace explains. “So I wanted to find a school that was diverse enough for her first experience outside of the house.”
As she surfed several schools’ websites, Wallace, a public school teacher and freelance photographer in Dallas, didn’t find what she was looking for—so she decided to create it. That’s when Brown Girls Do Ballet was born.
“I was looking for a project to shoot during my downtime, so I decided my project was going to be photographing dancers of color,” Wallace says.
At first, she planned on shooting 12 little brown ballerinas, but when the casting call she issued on Facebook received responses from all over the country, she realized she was onto something.
“It went viral,” she says, still surprised by the response. “That’s when I realized how very little we are represented in the ballet world, and specifically the classical ballet world.” Click through to see how Brown Girls Do Ballet has transformed into an organization that not only highlights dancers of color in strikingly beautiful photographs, but also supports them along their journey.