Misty Copeland created her own history as the first Black woman to be the American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer. Now, America’s most famous ballerina is reinterpreting history by appearing in re-creations of French artist Edgar Degas’ historic works on ballerinas.
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Misty Copeland (1982- ), an American classical ballet dancer, in 2015 became the first Black American woman ever to become a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). That makes her one of the top ballerinas at one of the top classical ballet companies in the world! Mikhail Baryshnikov was a principal at ABT.
In the US, ballet is mainly seen as a White thing. Accordingly, many assume that rail-thin White women make the best ballerinas. But, as Copeland herself has shown, that comes from prejudice, not from the demands of the art.
Copeland did not start ballet till age 13. Many professionals start at age three. Yet she could do in months what took most girls years of practice.
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History will be made at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the evening of Thursday, April 9, when Misty Copeland, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, joins Brooklyn Mack of the Washington Ballet in a performance of Swan Lake. Copeland and Mack, both African American, will go where no dancers of color have gone before. They will become the first African Americans to dance the leading roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried respectively in the traditional ballet.