Misty Copeland: Bringing diversity to classical ballet like a Firebird

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Before Misty Copeland, there hadn’t been a black soloist at the American Ballet Theater for twenty years. She is only the third in the history of ABT to achieve soloist status. Misty is the first black woman in history to play Stravinsky’s Firebird for a major ballet company.

In her new book, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, she shares her struggles from being one of six children raised by her single mother and living in a shabby motel in San Pedro, California to dancing at the Metropolitan Opera House. It is her impoverished and diverse background that makes her an “unlikely ballerina.”

Here are five things you might not know about Misty Copeland:

1. She is the new face for Under Armour with a goal of shattering body image types. Misty shows both her inner and outer strength in Under Armour’s new ad. Watching the ad, you can certainly see similarities with athletes and artists. “I will what I want” makes a strong and encouraging statement. She also partnered with Sean James Student Athletes Foundation “Athlete Meets Artist.” It’s easy to see that ballerinas ARE athletes and artists.

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2. Misty is an ambassador for the Boys and Girls Club (where she began) hoping to bring ballet to more people…specifically the “little brown girls.” She has a passion for educating children. She also helped to establish Project Plie through American Ballet Theater. This program introduces children to ballet and identifies them for future training through scholarships.

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3. Misty began taking ballet classes at the Boys and Girls Club when she was thirteen. This is a VERY late age to start training. She had natural abilities and was called a ballet prodigy. She says this about starting ballet late, “There are ballet dancers who burn out by their teens, but I was ready to go, and still hungry. My body wasn’t worn down, and I didn’t have that craving for approval that gets ingrained when you start at age three or four. I was just dancing to dance, because I loved it.”  

 

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4. Prince asked Misty to be in his video, Crimson and Clover, and also to perform with him in France and a few dates of his “Welcome 2 America” tour dancing at Madison Square Garden. Prince gave Misty a lot of freedom for creativity telling her, “Be you, feel the music, just move...” Dancing with musicians like Prince and TLC, has given classical ballet more exposure…reaching people who might not go to a classical ballet performance but bringing it to them in other genres and keeping ballet alive outside the classical world.

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5. In addition to her book, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerinashe has also written a children’s book suitably called, Firebird that will be out September 4th. I can’t wait to read it to my daughter. I have a feeling it may be similar to another story I have read to my second grade class for years, Amazing Grace. In the book, Grace’s Nana reminds her granddaughter that she can do anything she imagines and helps her to realize that when she takes Grace to see a famous black ballerina perform.

Picture a ballerina in a tutu and pointe shoes. What do you think she looks like? 

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You might also enjoy:

Five things you might not know about Amelia Earhart 

Five things you might not know about Mary Cassatt

Five things you might not know about dance

 

 

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