Last Updated Aug 17, 2020 7:25 PM EDT
New York — After 86 years, New York City's famed School of American Ballet is making history not on the stage, but in the classroom, when Aesha Ash becomes the school's first Black female permanent faculty member.
Ash hopes to make a difference for her students.
"I feel that I have this hyper-awareness now of that dancer who's struggling ... and sort of see that sort of self-doubt creeping in," she explained.
As a teenager, she had those self-doubts in a school with a mostly-White student population.
"When you look at performances, when you look at footage, when you see images on the wall ... are everything but your own, that is saying something to the dancers around," Ash said.
But she persevered, earning a spot with the New York City Ballet — one of only a few dancers of color.
Jonathan Stafford, the school's new artistic director, said hearing Ash's painful experiences helped them face hard truths.
"It really lit a fire under us at the school and the company to really dig into the work and look at all of our policies and practices and unconscious bias and how we make decisions," he said.
Eunhye Darbouze, a 16-year-old School of American Ballet student, said seeing someone who looks like her at the head of the class makes all the difference.
"I feel a motivation, kind of a fire behind my eyes," Darbouze told CBS News. "I feel that she's an example of why I have to push myself harder."
Ash acknowledges that change isn't perfect.
"We can't run away from the ugly, the uncomfortable. And I think that we're seeing that in society as a whole right now is that we can no longer close our eyes," she said.