Thursday, March 4, 2021

Ballerina Misty Copeland: ‘I Will Push Diversity For as Long as I Live’

misty copeland
Soloist Misty Copeland speaks onstage during the AMERICAN MASTERS “American Ballet Theatre at 75″‘ panel discussion at the PBS Network portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at Langham Hotel on January 19, 2015 in Pasadena, California

*Ballerina rock star Misty Copeland appears in the upcoming PBS special “American Ballet Theatre at 75,” a Ric Burns documentary saluting the New York-based ballet company’s 75th anniversary year.

Copeland, ABT’s third African American female soloist ever, said she realized a lifelong dream upon joining the elite group of dancers in 2007.

“ABT was the very first ballet company I saw live. I saw Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella dance ‘Don Quixote,’ and I was sold,” Copeland, 32, told journalists Monday (Jan. 19) at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, CA.

Her journey to ABT Soloist has not been smooth. The San Pedro, Calif. native has spoken at length about being introduced to ballet at age 13, a full decade after most preeminent ballerinas begin their training. Also, puberty caused her frame to blossom beyond the art form’s preferred curve-less body type.

And then there was her darker skin.

“I wasn’t completely prepared to experience being the only African American woman in the company for a decade,” said Copeland. “I don’t think that I was completely aware of how few there are in top companies within the ballet world. So, if anything, that was probably the biggest shock for me. But it would have been that way in any company that I would have joined.”

misty copeland cast
(L-R) Series executive producer Michael Kantor, soloist Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and filmmaker Ric Burns speak onstage during the AMERICAN MASTERS “American Ballet Theatre at 75″‘ panel discussion at the PBS Network portion of the Television Critics Association press tour at Langham Hotel on January 19, 2015 in Pasadena, California

In “American Ballet Theatre at 75,” premiering May 15 on PBS, Burns features intimate rehearsal footage, virtuoso performances, and interviews with artists pivotal to the company’s formation, including Copeland, who is about to star in ABT productions of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Swan Lake.”

Copeland said she would love to see more diversity “in every aspect” of the art form, “on the stage, in the audiences, in the boardrooms, on the artistic staff, and for it to be reaching a younger generation.”

Her pursuit of inclusion, she promised, will continue to be her priority long after she hangs up her toe shoes: “I think I was born to do this, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I will be pushing the diversity issue for as long as I live.”

Misty Copeland in American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake
Misty Copeland in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake

Below, Copeland talks about the impact and reaction of her historic ad campaign for Under Armour:

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Good for you Misty! You have to be strong as a woman of color with all the ignorant people trying to silence you whenever you speak the truths they want to ignore.

  2. Strength. Beauty. Talent. Conviction. An iron will. And most of all class. I have followed this young woman’s career since the first time I saw her perform. This is the type of example I always held up to my granddaughters as someone to emulate, look up to and aspire to. Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas. Leontyne Price. Examples of uncommon excellence instead of common mediocrity. Thank God they listened.

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