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