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BWW Reviews: Misty Copeland - A Star Is Rocketing at American Ballet Theatre

Misty Copeland, the rising American Ballet Theatre soloist, may not yet have been officially promoted to principal dancer, but her command of the stage attracts the full attention of the audience, as would any prima ballerina. Whether dancing principal or soloist roles, her strong technique and charismatic personality bring fresh air and excitement to both classical and contemporary ballets. Few dancers these days make me smile and spurt superlatives whenever I see them perform.

It was thrilling to see Copeland dance the leading role of Swanhilda on the opening night of ABT's Coppelia. Her exuberance, style, and grace enchanted the full house, which had come to see this unlikely ballerina take center stage. Her characterization was effervescent and bubbling with the assurance called for by this role. Partnered by the energetic and brilliant Herman Cornejo, the pair made a serious mark. I'd like to see how this partnership matures in the coming ABT seasons.

Dancing Lescaut's Mistress in Manon, Copeland was a worthy part of a strong cast that included Diana Vishneva as Manon, Marcelo Gomes as Des Grieux, and, again, Cornejo as Lescaut. She was seductive and ingratiating, clearly delivering a stellar performance.

La Bayadere found Copeland cast in the second female lead of Gamzatti, the Radjah's daughter. She was regal, whether executing the challenging choreography or plainly sitting watching others perform. She commanded her scenes, while holding her own with Alina Cojocaru and Cornejo. Her contribution to this brilliant cast made it a marvelous production.

Balanchine's Duo Concertant, a pas de deux for two dancers alone on stage with a pianist and violinist, presented a different side of the Copeland persona. She danced from an internal place as though she were improvising, while at the same time enticing her partner, Eric Tamm, to engage with her. Later that evening she danced the Flower Girl in Gaîté Parisienne. In this role she was animated and sassy; whatever a part calls for, this dancer can and does deliver.

Copeland's exuberant performance of the Giselle peasant pas de deux drew the audience in, nearly making them forget the title character for a moment. In other performances she danced Moyna, one of the soloist Wilis, proving yet again that her range is broad, an important trait in any professional dancer, particularly principals and soloists.

Swan Lake provided Copeland with three roles. I saw her dance the pas de trois with Isabella Boylston and Luis Ribagorda. The sparkle of her energy and the spring in her steps made all the other ballerinas pale beside her.

A lot has been made over Copeland being the first African-American female soloist at ABT in 20 years, and only the second in ABT history. The reason for this, of course, is that the ballet world has been slow to accept non-white dancers, particularly African Americans/Africans from any country. If she is promoted to principal, she will be the first African-American female to make it to this choice position in this company; in fact, she will be the 1st female principal in any major ballet company. Her ethnicity aside, all I see when watching her dance is her enormous talent, which I am privileged to be witnessing. I look forward to seeing her take on many more principal roles, lighting the spirits of ballet goers of all ethnicities.

Photo Credit: Naim Chidiac

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert