She’s not the stereotypical ballerina – which is why everyone is interested in the talented Misty Copeland. Her art, voice, athleticism, and determination separate her from other dancers. Copeland is comfortable and confident within her dance skills and as a leader for an organization that is usually quiet.
Copeland is the first African American woman to ever carry a full three act ballet for an elite American Ballet company. She is also the third black female soloist ever to dance for the American Ballet Theatre and in 2012 became the first black ballerina to perform the iconic role in Firebird for the American Ballet Theatre. In addition, in 2014 Copeland signed on to be sponsored by Under Armour and has worked with music legend Prince.
Despite all of the success and accomplishments, Copeland is very down-to-earth and humble. “I use to look around and try to do as much research about discovering other dancers, like me, have come before me. What other black ballerinas existed. At this point, there are so many incredible young dancers – they have now become my inspiration to keep pushing,” said Copeland.
Success didn’t come easy for Copeland. At the age of 13, Copeland began ballet – which in the theatre world, is late. But by the age of 15, ballet was ingrained into Copeland’s every day. Copeland continued to climb the ladder and dedicate her everything to ballet. At the age of 32, the illustrious ballerina has entertainer, athlete, author and designer as titles.
Copeland wants to be the voice for other ballerinas and most importantly others that look up to her as a role model. It’s seldom that you hear dancers speak – especially in the ballet culture. “We’re forever students. You’re supposed to sit back and gain the feedback because it’s a silent art form,” said Copeland. “But I feel like it’s important for me to speak on behalf of so many minorities because there is so few of us.”
The American Ballet Theatre recently announced Copeland as the female lead in Romeo and Juliet. While it’s another huge accomplishment for Copeland, she is unchanged from the success and remains a student at heart – while also bringing a sense of modernity to dance.
“I don’t think much has changed and even with all of the amazing opportunities and being exposed to a different crowd of people. I’m still a dancer. I’m still a professional. I still rehearse eight hours a day. I understand the bigger picture and how to change the way dancers are viewed – especially on a bigger stage,” said Copeland.
There is no doubt that Copeland is breaking barriers – not only for ballerinas who yearn to dance but for the everyday person who cultivates a dream.