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Their historic picture went viral. Now these 'Brown Ballerinas' are making an impact.

Their historic picture went viral. Now these 'Brown Ballerinas' are making an impact.
Posted at 4:31 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 16:47:01-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A photo taken on Richmond's Monument Avenue captured the hearts of people around the country after it went viral on social media.

The pictures showed young brown dancers on pointe.

"A lot of the world hasn't seen Black ballerinas," Ava Holloway, one of the dancers pictured, said.

Ava Holloway, Kennedy George, Shania Gordon and Sophia Chambliss took pictures on Monument Avenue before the Robert E. Lee statue was removed. The dancers saw that history was unfolding right before their eyes and decided they wanted to take a stand.

Their historic picture went viral. Now these 'Brown Ballerinas' are making an impact.

The girls have been dancing together for years and had no idea how their passion would impact others.

"After the death of George Floyd, we kind of saw all the chaos that was going on downtown and all the riots and protests and we didn't really know how we could contribute," Ava said.

Their photo was captured by Reuters photographer Julia Rendleman and took social media by storm.

"I did not expect it at all, to say the least," Ava said.

Almost overnight, the girls became known as the Brown Ballerinas.

Nike featured them in an advertisement, national news outlets requested interviews, local artists and organizations called them to dance at their events and thousands of people cheered them on from around the world.

"It's just really cool and exciting," Shania said.

All the recognition showed the girls the power of their craft.

"We decided to advocate using dance. And I think it's really powerful to be able to be young and be able to start a movement," Ava said.

Inspired by the support, the teenagers created Brown Ballerinas For Change in 2020. Since then, they have continued the work to grow the organization.

"We want to promote change and social justice and just increase diversity in the arts and allow our Brown dancers to feel like they have a place and just cheer them on," Kennedy said.

"We even have ambassador programs now where a bunch of people come to take our classes on Sundays and we have workshops and just a bunch of different things that a lot of people wouldn't have had the opportunity to do," Ava said.

The young dancers and their instructors hope to make a lasting impact.

"We provide a safe space for dancers, especially Brown or Black dancers, or dancers who just identify with any identity, actually," Brandy said.

Their historic picture went viral. Now these 'Brown Ballerinas' are making an impact.

Libi Brooker was one of those who found space in their group to dance.

"This is my first year with Brown Ballerinas. I really appreciate how inclusive Brown Ballerinas is. Not everyone here is fully 100% Black, so it's mixed with different races as well. I really enjoy it, considering that I am a different gender, I'm non-binary and everyone here has been extremely inclusive," Libi said.

"I feel like everyone should have people to hold them accountable and to love on them and to just allow them to be who they are," Kennedy said.

Their passion is empowering others to stand up for what they believe in by simply doing what they love.

"I'm just excited for more of the things that we will see in the future," Kennedy said.

The organization is planning to hold a panel discussion on Brown Ballerinas in the near future. If you would like to learn more about the group, you can visit their website.