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BWW Reviews: Misty Copeland Contributes Electric Energy to the American Ballet Theatre

When a gifted dancer continually gets better and better, breathes fresh air into a classic ballet, and attracts all the eyes in the theater, attention must not only be paid, but commanded. Misty Copeland is proving herself to be just such a dancer.

As Copeland rises through the ranks of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), she is being given more principal roles with each season. Her clean, precise technique, exhibiting a formidably flexible, strong body, sets her apart and allows her full artistic expression to soar.

Dancing a principal role in the world premiere of Liam Scarlett's With a Chance of Rain on the opening night Gala of October 22, Copeland was a ball of energy, mesmerizing the audience and contributing to the fine performance of her partner, James Whiteside. In this ballet about relationships, theirs' was the most volatile. She handled this difficult role with class and ease (or so it seemed). Remembering this performance, it was her magnificence which, alone, stayed with me, until the following day, when it came to me that Copeland did not bat an eye nor did she miss a beat as her partner put his hands on her breasts, moving them in circles (endehors); nor did she recoil at having to twerk back to the audience later in the pas de deux. She performed with a thorough naturalness, as though this is how ballerinas are trained and expected to perform on a stage at Lincoln Center. I have been informed that go-go dancers and strippers in adult entertainment clubs are protected from men, who are not permitted to touch them. Is this the current fate of ballet dancers who have spent their lives perfecting their technique and artistry? The dancer who performed this role two days later did not look comfortable.

In Christopher Wheeldon's Thirteen Diversions, Copeland gave a gorgeous performance. Here her lyricism was on display, creating expressive lines with a fluid movement.

On October 29, she danced a demi-soloist role in Raymonda Divertissements. Her talent seemed wasted, although she was a welcomed bright light in the back line in the corps. Copeland and soloist, Sarah Lane, danced a variation together. The ballet to follow was Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita, in which she danced a principal role, again paired with Whiteside and sometimes with Marcelo Gomes. Her electricity appeared to be contagious, perfect for this work, which demands perky dancing. Her obvious enjoyment gives the audience an opportunity to feel her joy and her apparent freedom of movement.

Having seen her perform several times in this fall season, at the David Koch Theater, I am left hungry to see her Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and more during the spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Photo credit: Andrea Mohin

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