October 17, 2016: Misty Copeland: Raising the Barre in Ballet

Encore: October 16, 2016

Misty Copeland joins MetroFocus to discuss her remarkable rise in ballet, becoming the first African American ballerina to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.

Reflecting on the years of physical and psychological barriers she’s faced, Copeland asserts the driving force continues to be, “the little brown girls … I just feel like every performance, every time I’m given an opportunity to be seen and given a voice, it’s them I’m representing, it’s them I’m speaking for.”

Misty speaks candidly of the prevalence of racism in ballet, stating that it exists, “to this very day.” She elaborates saying, “I don’t think that’s something that’s just going to go away over night at all. I hear all the time that young kids, between the ages of five and seven are being told by their teachers that they should go into another form of dance, that they don’t belong, they don’t have the bodies, their skin type will prevent them from getting a job in the future so they should focus on another form of dance.”

Copeland is now spearheading American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plie initiative, which is focused on increasing diversity in ballet and in terms of increasing opportunities, for her, “it’s about educating the communities, educating the parents. Trying to get teachers that are more diverse in these places, in these spaces so that they see representation through every single part of the classical ballet world.”

After touring internationally, Misty is now back in New York preparing for the American Ballet Theatre’s upcoming fall season. “We have a new work by Jessica Lang which is really incredible because there aren’t many female choreographers who are given opportunities in major ballet companies so I’m excited to dance her ballet, her notes,” she says.

It’s a busy few months for ABT’s principal dancer. Offstage she’ll be starring in a special episode of Peg + Cat, airing on PBS Kids, October 19th. “Growing up in the environment I grew up in, in a public school, for me I didn’t have an outlet that really nurtured my brain to think in a way that it needed to and the missing link for me was art,” she says. “What Peg + Cat is doing is so incredible, so to be a part of the series and have an episode, ‘The Dance Problem’, it’s beautiful to be able to use dance in an art form, helping them (children) to solve problems.”

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