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BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo


Informative, Inquisitive, Inclusive, Invigorating,  Illuminating, Interesting and Introspective.

BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo

Informative, Inquisitive, Inclusive, Invigorating, Illuminating, Interesting and Introspective. That's how I would describe the Insightful Conversation between Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo, which was Curated and Produced by The Music Center, with Dance Media and Dance Magazine..

With the artists themselves acting as the interviewers, asking each other questions based on their personal experiences, the two compare their schedules and struggles, and the differences in their journeys as Black women in dance in the U.S. versus South Africa. They share vulnerable insights on stage fright and how that's evolved unexpectedly with age. Most of all, they talk about their love for ballet, particularly the classics.

Clips of performances and rehearsals are interspersed with footage of their video chat - including glimpses of each performing their very different versions of Swan Lake and Giselle.

American Ballet Theatre's principal dancer Misty Copeland and South African dancer/choreographer Dada Masilo have a lot in common yet shared many different experiences on how they got to where they are now. It was extremely interesting to hear their conversation that highlighted their shared revelations, and uncovered their amazing yet distinctly unique paths to greatness and self-recognition. BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo

Racial differences and inequality were felt by both dancers when they were young and throughout their career. Misty stated it took a toll on her emotionally and psychologically, but she conquered, ultimately, by utilizing those experiences to elevate others and in turn empowering other women, other black artists to follow in her path. She was mentored by her first teacher who was extremely supportive and nurturing, giving Misty a somewhat sheltered existence while in ballet class for many years until she moved to New York and landed in the corps of ABT.

At only age 15 Misty Copeland was a finalist in TMC's Spotlight scholarship and arts training program. In 2001 she became a member of ABT's corps de ballet, rose to soloist status in 2007 and in 2015, became the company's first African-American principal dancer. She was appointed to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition by President Obama in 2014, and is the author of the best-selling books, Life in Motion and Ballerina Body, as well as children's books Firebird, which received the Ezra Jack Keats Honor, Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Book Award, and the recently published Bunheads.

BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo Born February 21, 1985 and bred in Johannesburg, Dada Masilo is a dancer/choreographer who fuses classical ballet and contemporary dance with African traditions. She received the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance in 2008. The National Arts Festival commissioned three of her works: Romeo and Juliet (2008), Carmen (2009) and Swan Lake (2010), and in May 2017, the Bessie-nominated choreographer premiered her Giselle, which was commissioned by The Joyce Theater, The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College, La Biennale de la Danse de Lyon and Sadlers Wells.

When she was young, she was very shy, and came to realize a lot of artists use artistic mediums to express themselves uniquely. She did have formal ballet training; something Misty did not.

Although she rebelled against the constraints of the ballet world when she was 20, especially as a woman of color, being made to powder her arms before a performance and other slights, she values her training and education as a strong foundation for what her future became. She knew then she had the inner strength to be herself, be authentic and not stick to any one kind of signature to define her work, creativity or boundaries.BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo

They both reminisce and ask questions of each other about their separate versions of Swan Lake, which they have both performed. Misty says Dada's choreography and concept of Swan Lake blew her mind. They both spoke of the steps they took to create the piece, the process and in what order. They both agreed that the character develops through finding them in your body, once you've done the research.

Dada is bold, brazen, even, in her unique take on the classics Giselle and Swan Lake. She likes to challenge a topic, and mix it up so as to include unorthodox but fascinating alternate concepts. One such example is her corps of swans are all men en pointe wearing tutus. Her Giselle is not a fragile, wounded creature, but an emboldened woman, taking charge!

"Even as our country looks toward the return of live performances in a post-COVID world, digital presentations will remain a vibrant part of our programming. The Music Center is a presenter and producer of programming that speaks to the needs, passions and interests of all-the tough topics openly discussed between these two world-class artists are conversations we need to hear and act upon to ensure the world of ballet eliminates the stereotypical trope of who and what a ballet dancer is," said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. "We are absolutely thrilled to work with Dance Media and one of its flagship publications, Dance Magazine, to present this amazing conversation and are grateful to Misty and Dada for their magnificent artistry on the stage and serene grace off the stage."

BWW Feature: Changing Narratives in Dance; A Conversation with Misty Copeland and Dada Masilo Dance Media is owned by Frederic M. Seegal, publishing Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit and Dance Business Weekly. This was directed by Nicole Alexander in association with Hashtag, You're It productions.

The half-hour video delves into "diversity in dance, misconceptions about body types and eliminating barriers with traditional expectations of Ballet" (TMC press release).

"For nearly one hundred years, Dance Magazine has written about and developed content that works to inform, inspire and advocate for dancers and the greater dance world. We eat, sleep and breathe dance and want to give dancers and lovers of the art form exclusive insider access that begins and deepens important conversations," said Joanna Harp, CRO and publisher, Dance Media. "We are pleased to partner with The Music Center to premiere INSIDE LOOK: Misty Copeland & Dada Masilo - Changing Narratives in Dance, and to highlight these ground-breaking artists and leaders. Their lived experiences are a prime example of how the world of ballet and dance must end the systemic racism and discrimination that artists of color have had to endure for far too long."

Hopefully, from this connection, this stirring conversation, Misty and Dada will be concocting a new collaborative endeavor that will definitely be noteworthy and ground-breaking.

The On-demand viewing throughout the year is available at via The Music Center Offstage virtual platform. Closed captioning is also available.

Photos courtesy of TMC, Gregg Delman and Rob Mills

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