A group of young ballerinas have taken their beloved hobby and turned it into an iconic photo shoot inspired by Misty Copeland in honor of Black History Month.
The little girls, who dance together at iRule Dance Studio in Beaumont, Texas, recently took a break from their vigorous dance schedules to pose for the camera in a photo shoot by Brandie Perry of Bee Photography, Good Morning America reported.
But what was supposed to be an activity to help the girls bond ultimately turned into a symbol of empowerment for black women, and has quickly become a viral sensation.
“All they want to do is have fun and they still don’t understand how big of a deal this is,” Angela Malonson, whose 7-year-old daughter Falon has been a part of the elite dance squad since she was 3, told GMA.
“Maybe once they’re older and can reflect back on the moment, they will see all of the positivity,” Malonson added. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
The photo shoot was initially proposed by the girls’ families but didn’t come to fruition until early February when they all had availability between their two to three hours per day, six days per week practices, Perry explained to Fox affiliate KSAZ.
“These girls are dedicated,” said the photographer, whose daughter dances at iRule. “When I say dedicated, I mean dedicated.”
As it turned out, the date the families eventually decided on happened to fall during Black History Month.
“These girls work so hard, and although they don’t complain about it, sometimes we like to do something fun,” Malonson told GMA. “It just so happened to be February and what better month to do [the photo shoot] in honor of Black History Month.”
On the day of the shoot, Perry gathered the ballerinas together in their black leotards, pink tights, and ballet slippers and had them pose outside near downtown Beaumont, according to KSAZ.
Though they were all wearing the same outfits, Perry said it was important to her that the photos accurately reflected each ballerina’s unique personality.
“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,” Perry told KSAZ. “You can tell the personality in each one of these girls.”
“I wanted it to be a fierce, in-your-face picture, but show their softness too,” the photographer added of the shots.
Some of the photos feature the girls standing in power poses with their hands on their hips or foreheads. Others show them playfully interacting with each other, laughing, whispering, and joking around.
Most of the girls have their hair pulled into a tight bun, while a select few have it in a ponytail. But all of the photos are undeniably fierce — something that Malonson said was inspired by fellow black ballerina Copeland, 37.
“We just don’t see a lot of people that look like her … people of color, brown people that take ballet,” she explained to GMA. “Misty Copeland came along and paved the way. There weren’t very many people for little girls of color to look up to.”
When the images finally came out, iRule’s founder and owner CharLee Hanna-Rule said she was moved by the powerful shots.
“When I saw [the pictures], I obviously choked up,” Hanna-Rule told GMA. “To see [the photos], I was so proud.”
Hanna-Rule said part of the reason she was so emotional over the photos was because they embodied everything she believes and preaches at her dance studio.
“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,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter your size or color or anything.”
The photos have been as equally well-received by internet users all over the world.
After Perry posted them on her Facebook on Feb. 10, captioning the shots, “Fierce, determined, strong,” they have garnered over 14,000 shares.
With the photos continuing to circulate online, Malonson said she hopes the girls take away a valuable lesson from this experience so that they can become the next Copeland one day.
“The sky’s the limit,” she told GMA. “If you do the work and work hard, great things come. Just don’t give up.”
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