- Photos of a group of young black ballerinas are going viral after their fierce photo shoot was shared on Facebook during Black History Month.
- Roshunda Vallery, one of the mothers responsible for coordinating the shoot, told Insider that it was intended to be a bonding experience for the girls outside of the dance studio.
- The photographer, Brandie Perry, helped the girls with their poses and encouraged them to show off their best dance moves.
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Young ballerinas from Texas are going viral after a photo shoot they had during Black History Month.
The photographer behind the shoot, Brandie Perry of Bee Photography, didn’t expect her work to go viral, but she told Insider that she’s proud of the message the photos convey.
“To me, when I see these photos I think of empowerment,” Perry said. “These girls work their butts off, and these photos say ‘Here we are, we’re in your face, and this is what we do.'”
On February 10, Perry shared some of the images from the shoot on Facebook. Since then, the photos have garnered hundreds of likes, shares, and supportive comments from people who are proud to see representation in the world of ballet. A post from one of the young girl’s family members had more than 14,000 shares and close to 4,000 likes at the time of writing.
The photos have also caught the attention of public figures and celebrities like Kamala Harris and Gabrielle Union. The "Bring It On" star shared one of the images on her Instagram Story with the caption, "Future is now."
The tiny ballerinas, who are all between the ages of five and eight years old, are part of an elite dance squad at iRule Dance Studio in Beaumont, Texas.
One of the mothers, Roshunda Vallery, came up with the original idea for the photo shoot and reached out to Perry to make it happen. Vallery's 8-year-old daughter Taraji is in the photos and has been dancing with the company for two years.
"I wanted to recreate another picture that I saw on Facebook and got a group of moms together to see if they would want to help," Vallery said. "I showed my idea to the photographer, she gave us a price, we all came up with a mutual date, ordered our outfits off of Amazon, and then from there made history I guess!"
Although the photo shoot was a fun way for the girls to hang out outside of the dance studio, Vallery told Insider that it was also meant to be a way for them to celebrate the career of their favorite dancer: Misty Copeland, the first African-American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.
"All of the girls, including my daughter, are inspired by Misty Copeland," she said.
Vallery said that the shoot was originally intended to be a bonding experience for the girls, but the day that worked for everyone happened to fall in the month of February.
"We did not plan to do it during Black History Month, it just happened to be the perfect month for it," Vallery said.
Some of the photos show the girls smiling or laughing at the camera and interacting with each other, while others highlight their confidence with bold expressions and hands placed on their hips. Perry helped the girls with their poses during the shoot and encouraged them to show off their best dance moves.
But according to the photographer, the most challenging part of the shoot wasn't getting the girls to pose. Instead, it was "figuring out how to make everybody happy." At first, Perry said the parents were skeptical of her location choice: the "outskirts of Downtown Beaumont."
"I had the perfect spot and nobody liked it," Perry told Insider. "I was like 'Please, just trust me.' We all laughed about it now that it went viral."
After seeing the impact the photos have had across social media, Vallery told Insider that she was proud to have put something like this together.
"It made me happy to know that something positive came from this, and that I could make something that dynamic happen," Vallery said. "We never in a million years expected it to go from just a regular photo shoot to something that went viral on social media."
"I'm just proud to give them a platform because you never know what the future holds for them or who they're going to meet," she added. "Hopefully one day Misty Copeland can meet them!"