Misty Copeland’s Achievement and the Future of Ballet

“My goal is to become the first African-American principal dancer with A.B.T.”

-That’s Misty Copeland, in a 2014 profile in The New Yorker. She was promoted on June 30, becoming the first African-American female principal dancer in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.

Copeland got her start in ballet when she was 13:

Cantine had a background in classical dance, and, after working with Misty for a short time she suggested that she try the ballet class at the Boys & Girls Club. “I wasn’t excited by the idea of being with people I didn’t know, and though I loved movement, I had no particular feelings about ballet,” Copeland said. “But I didn’t want to displease Liz.”

Cindy Bradley, who taught the class, told me, “I remember putting my hand on her foot, putting it into a tendu pointe, and she was definitely able to go into that position—she was able to go into all the positions that I put her into that day—but it wasn’t about that.” Bradley said she had a kind of vision, “right then, that first day, of this little girl becoming amazing.”

Copeland recalls her first class differently: “I was so embarrassed. I didn’t know anything that the other girls in the class knew; I thought I was doing everything wrong.”

In this segment for CBS, Copeland says the ballet world still has a long way to go in terms of embracing diversity:

“It doesn’t matter what color I am, it doesn’t matter what body type I have. … It’s something that’s going to take the ballet world a long time to get used to, and I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime. But it’s starting.”

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