BWW Reviews: At Long Last - Misty Copeland Has Been Promoted to Principal
No other ballet dancer has received more publicity than Misty Copeland during the last five years. Her promotion to principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre was announced on June 30, 2015, and picked up immediately by most newspapers and television news shows, including the front page of the New York Times. This long awaited announcement eclipsed the simultaneous promotion of ABT soloist Stella Abrera, another great talent, to principal, who has been waiting longer than Copeland for her promotion.
Because Copeland is the first African American female to reach principal status at ABT, her position and timing is prodigious. The pervasive, sometimes underlying prejudice in this country, has been visible in the ballet world by the relative absence of African Americans and other people of color on stage. This may be understandable, as this art form was born in Europe by a white population. Today, long overdue, it must be admitted that this is no longer acceptable.
As a melting pot nation, we need to accept external differences in favor of real talent and ability. Copeland is the real thing--an extraordinary ballerina. Another reason there are few ethnic ballet dancers is the expensive enterprise to train for many years and buy clothes and pointe shoes (for the girls) just to determine if one is gifted in this area.
Copeland, in conjunction with ABT, has begun Project Plié, a program created to offer scholarships, including dance clothes and shoes, to children with the desire to dance, but not the means. They are invited to train with ABT teachers in the boroughs of NYC and surrounding areas. When asked about the future for African Americans in ballet, Copeland wisely answered that this remains to be seen, as it takes many years and individual effort/desire to create a professional ballet dancer.
This has been quite a journey for Copeland, who first heard of ballet and classical music and took her first ballet classes at age 13 at her local Boys and Girls club. Her story has been widely told, so I will stick to my experience viewing her.
I first saw Copeland when she was 14 or 15, in a story on ABC's 2020--the most talented child I had ever seen was joyfully and beautifully leaping on a beach in California, where she lived and trained. When she was in New York City, performing with ABT about two years later, I was interested in seeing her dance, so I watched her through the years. In the past few years, she has done national commercials for Coach, Diet Dr. Pepper, and recently, most famously, for Under Armour: I will what I want campaign, making her a household name.
This season at ABT, Copeland has been enormously busy dancing both soloist and principal roles. No matter the size of the role, she shines, making her clearly visible, not because of her skin color or her well defined muscles, but because her radiance and her acting ability make her a star.