MetroFocus: November 14, 2022

CHASING THE DREAM:

MISTY COPELAND LAUNCHES A PROGRAM TO BRING MORE DIVERSITY TO BALLET 

Dance superstar Misty Copeland knows a thing or two about breaking barriers, and this fall she’s pointing to the power of ballet to help New York City kids chase their dreams.  Misty, the American Ballet Theatre’s first Black principal dancer, recently launched the “Be Bold” initiative with a free, 12-week program for children 8 to 10 that includes about 120 students from local Boys and Girls Clubs. The goal is to eventually train and mentor thousands of kids, especially Black and Latino students often not seen on stage.  Misty joins MetroFocus to discuss this groundbreaking initiative and her new memoir, The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, SUPERSTAR BALLERINA MISTY COPELAND AND HER GROUND BREAKING NEW DANCE PROGRAM FOR NEW YORK CITY KIDS.

HOW SHE'S HELPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF BLACK AND LATINO DANCERS CHASE THEIR DREAMS BY TRANSFORMING THE WORLD OF BALLET INTO A MORE INCLUSIVE PLACE.

'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

DANCE SUPERSTAR MISTY COPELAND KNOWS A THING OR TWO ABOUT BREAKING BARRIERS AND THIS FALL SHE'S POINTING TO THE POWER OF BALLET TO HELP NEW YORK CITY KIDS.

COPELAND, THE FIRST TO BECOME A PRINCIPLE AT THE AMERICAN BALLY THEATER LAUNCH THE BE BOLD INITIATIVE, THAT INCLUDE ABOUT 120 STUDENTS FROM LOCAL BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB TLS GOAL SO THE TRAIN AND MENTOR THOUSANDS, ESPECIALLY BLACK AND LATINO NEW YORKERS OFTEN NOT SEEN ON STAGE.

THIS MONTH, MISTY IS ALSO PAYING TRIBUTE TO HER TRAILBLAZING TEACHER WITH THE RELEASE OF HER MEMOIR, 'THE WIND AT MY BACK: RESILIENCE, GRACE, AND OTHER GIFTS FROM MY MENTOR, RAVEN WILKINSON', WHICH SHE'LL BE DISCUSSING THIS TUESDAY NIGHT AT THE UPPER WEST SIDE SYMPHONY SPACE.

AND IT'S SO GOOD TO WELCOME MISTY COPELAND BACK TO 'METROFOCUS' AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY, JUSTICE, AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

MISTY, IT IS SO GREAT TO HAVE YOU BACK ON THE SHOW.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

I'M REALLY, REALLY EXCITED.

I'M REALLY CURIOUS TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM.

USUALLY WHEN A NEW INITIATIVE LAUNCHES, ONE OF THE THINGS I'M ALWAYS CURIOUS ABOUT IS WHY NOW.

AND I'M SURE AS A DANCER, YOU KNOW TIMING IS EVERYTHING, SO WHY WAS THIS THE MOMENT TO LAUNCH A PROGRAM LIKE THIS IN.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ASKING ME THIS QUESTION, AND SMISKLY ABOUT THE PROGRAM AND THE FOUNDATION.

I THINK ABOUT MY WHOLE CAREER, AND, YOU KNOW, THIS BEING A REALLY -- LIKE, A FULL CIRCLE MOMENT AND A CULMINATION OF EVERYTHING I'VE WORKED FOR, THE MISSIONS AND GOALS I HAVE HAD THROUGHOUT MY CAREER, WHICH HAS BEEN TO BRING MORE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION INTO BALLET, AND TO BRING IT TO A BROADER AUDIENCE, TO INFORM MORE PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT IT REALLY IS, AND ALL OF THE INCREDIBLE TOOLS YOU CAN LEARN BY BEING INTRODUCED TO -- BY HAVING IT BE A PART OF YOUR LIFE AND WORLD, LIVE MUSIC AND MOVEMENT, WHAT IT MEANS FOR A CHILD.

I THINK THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE PANDEMIC AND THE UPRISE OR BLACK LIVES MATTER, THERE'S BEEN A REAL -- IT'S REALLY AFFECTED THE CLASSICAL BALLET WORLD I THINK IN A WAY A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE.

I'VE SEEN A LOT OF PROGRESS AND CHANGE IN THE LAST THREE YEARS MORE THAN I HAVE IN MY ENTIRE 20-PLUS YEAR CAREER.

I THINK NOW IS A MOMENT WE NEED TO BE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN AS BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE FOR OUR COMMUNITIES TO REALLY MAKE AN IMPACT.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, WITH STARTING THE MISTY COPELAND FOUNDATION IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME WITH THE FIRST PROGRAM THAT IT BE I THINK SOMETHING CHILDREN RIGHT NOW IN THIS MOMENT CAN REALLY BENEFIT FROM, BY BEING OUTDOORS, BEING IN A SPACE WHERE THEY'RE SURROUNDED BY THEIR PEERS, WHERE THEY'RE COMMUNICATING, USING THEIR BODIES.

COMING OFF THE PANDEMIC.

I THINK THIS IS A REALLY POWERFUL CLASS FOR THESE CHILDREN TO HAVE ACCESS TO.

AS YOU'RE SAYING IT'S AN AFTERSCHOOL BALLET CLASS.

WHILE WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE THE NEXT MISTY COPELAND, THE NEXT CALVIN REAL, THE NEXT RAVEN WILKINSON COME OUT OF THIS PROGRAM, IT'S ABOUT EXPING CHILDREN TO JOYFUL RIGOR.

GIVING THEM A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT BALLET IS.

BRINGING IT TO BLACK AND BROWN COMMUNITIES.

THE FIRST FIVE SITES WE HAVE THE PROGRAM IMPLEMENTED IN ARE IN THE BRONX.

IT'S REALLY POWERFUL AND, TO BE ABLE TO HAVE CREATED THIS CURRICULUM FROM THE GROUND UP -- IT'S NOT YOUR TYPICAL BALLET CLASS.

IT'S MAKING IT FUN FOR PARTICULAR COMMUNITIES.

THERE'S SO MUCH TO UNPACK THERE.

I DID WANT TO MAKE SURE WE WERE CLEAR FOR THE WHOLE AUDIENCE, AND THAT'S THINGS PEOPLE MIGHT NOT REALIZE ABOUT THE INCLUSIVENESS OR LACK THERE OF IN THE BALLET WORLD.

SO MANY PEOPLE MIGHT KNOW YOUR ORIGIN STORY, BUT JUST REMIND US, WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED TAKING BALLET, WHERE WAS THAT, WHAT WAS IT LIKE, AND DID YOU IMMEDIATELY FALL IN LOVE, OR WAS IT PERHAPS SOMETHING YOU GREW TO LOVE?

IT REALLY IS A FULL CIRCLE MOVEMENT HAVING THIS PROGRAM AT THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS WHERE THEY ARE RIGHT NOW.

I TOOK MY FIRST BALLET CLASS AT A BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB WHEN I WAS 13 YEARS OLD ON A BASKETBALL COURT.

HI A BALLET TEACHER, CYNTHIA BRADLEY, THE LOCAL TEACHER, HAD HER SCHOOL?

SAN PEDRO CALIFORNIA WHERE I GREW UP, AND SHE WAS LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO REACH MORE STUDENTS SO SHE COULD BRING THEM IN ON FULL SCHOLARSHIP.

I HAPPENED TO BE ONE OF THOSE STUDENTS AND MY LIFE HAS BEEN COMPLETELY CHANGED BY HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE EXPOSED TO AN ART FORM.

IT CHANGED THE WAY I WAS LEARNING IN SCHOOL.

NOT EVERY CHILD LEARNS THE SAME.

THAT'S WHY I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR ARTS.

SO, YOU KNOW, GOING FROM A BASKETBALL COURT TO AMERICAN BALLET THEATER WITHIN FOUR YEARS, YOU KNOW, I WOULDN'T HAVE HAD THAT OPPORTUNITY WERE IT NOT FOR A PROGRAM LIKE I'M CREATING WITH THE BE BOLD PROGRAM.

I ALSO WANT TO ASK ABOUT SOME OF THE STEREOTYPES THAT CONTINUE AND PERSIST WITHIN THE BALL ALLOW WORLD, AND ONE OF THEM THAT'S QUITE PROMINENT, IT FOR A LOT OF BLACK AND LATINO GIRLS IS BODY TYPE.

DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT BODY TYPE?

TRADITIONALLY THAT'S BEEN VERY SLENDER, VERY EUROPEAN.

AND FOR A LOT OF GIRLS ESPECIALLY IN THOSE COMMUNITIES, THAT'S NOT THE CASE.

HOW DO YOU, I GUESS, BRIDGE THAT GAP AND LET THOSE KIDS KNOW THAT ACTUALLY YOUR BODY IS OKAY AND IT'S MORE ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE MOVEMENT AND THE DANCE, ET CETERA?

YEAH.

I MEAN, SO MUCH OF THAT IS THE LANGUAGE WE'RE USING.

IT'S HAVING REPRESENTATION.

EN WHY, BE THE BE BOLD PROGRAM IT'S BEEN IMPORTANT FOR ME WITH THE TEACHING ARTISTS THAT WE HAVE, THAT WE'VE TRAINED IN THE CURRICULUM, THAT THEY LOOK LIKE THE STUDENTS THAT THEY ARE TEACHING.

THAT THEY CAN RELATE TO THEM AND CONNECT TO THEM THROUGH THE LANGUAGE THEY USE, THROUGH THE COMMONALITY, UNDERSTANDING OF BACKGROUNDS.

LIKE YOU WERE SAYING THERE'S SUCH A LACK AND THERE HAS BEEN THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF BALLET, SUCH A LACK OF REPRESENTATION AND DIVERSITY IN THESE ELITE COMPANIES.

YOU THINK OF AMERICAN BALLY THEATER, SAN FRANCISCO THEATER, PARIS THEATER, ROYAL BALLET, THE MAJORITY HAVE NOT HAD BLOCK AND BROWN DANCERS REACH THE TOP TIERS OF COMPANIES.

WHEN I THINK ABOUT BODY TYPE, FOR ME, I THINK THERE'S SO MANY DIFFERENT BODY TYPES WITHIN THE BALLET WORLD, AND WE DON'T TALK ABOUT WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE WHEN THE SKIN COLOR IS WHITE.

FOR ME, PEOPLE MEET ME IN PERSON, AND THEY'RE ALWAYS FLOORED BY HOW PETITE I AM, BECAUSE THE CONVERSATION AROUND ME HAS OFTEN BEEN, YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT BODY TYPE.

YOUR MUSCLES ARE TOO BIG.

YOUR BREASTS ARE TOO BIG.

YOU'RE TOO CURVY, AND I HAVE HAD TO STEP BACK AND DECIPHER WHAT THAT LANGUAGE MEANS.

AND FOR THE MOST PART IT'S MEANT, YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT SKIN COLOR, AND THIS IS AN ACCEPTABLE WAY THAT YOU CAN EXCLUDE YOU.

AND THAT'S BEEN A LOT OF BLACK AND BROWN WOMEN, IN PARTICULAR, THEIR EXPERIENCES IN THE CLASSICAL BALLET WORLD.

I THINK THAT ALL BODY TYPES CAN DANCE AND MOVE AND TELL A STORY, AND I SEE THAT IN THE DANCERS NEXT TO ME THAT HAVE WHITE SKIN.

THAT'S WHY IT'S ALLOWED ME TO STEP BACK AND SAY, WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?

BECAUSE I SEE A GIRL WHO HAS A SIMILAR BODY TO ME OR HAS BIGGER MUSCLES, AND I THINK IT'S CLEAR ABOUT WHAT IT IS WE'RE SAYING AND HAVING REPRESENTATION IN ALL SPACES.

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE DANCERS WE SEE ON THE STAGE.

IT'S THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, THE TEACHERS, THE STAFFING.

IT'S THE AUDIENCE MEMBERS.

ALSO FOR THE KIDS -- BECAUSE YOU ALSO TALK A LOT IN THE BOOK, AND WE'RE GOING TO GET MORE IN DEPTH IN THAT, ABOUT JUST THE STEREOTYPE IN THE DANCE WORLD, AND HOW IT'S NOT UNUSUAL FOR YOUNG DANCER OF COLOR TO PERHAPS BE ENCOURAGED TO MAYBE MODERN DANCE OR MAYBE YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S MORE URBAN OR SOMETHING, AND MAYBE THAT WOULD BE A BETTER FIT.

HOW DO YOU HOPE TO, AGAIN, LET THE KIDS WHO ARE GOING TO BE IN THE BE BOLD PROGRAM KNOW THAT, NO, THIS IS A SPACE WHERE YOU CAN THRIVE AS WELL?

THAT WAS MY EXPERIENCE.

THAT WAS RAVEN WILKINSON'S EXPERIENCE, MY MENTOR, YOU KNOW, IN THIS BOOK.

I THINK THAT IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE ACKNOWLEDGE DIFFERENT CULTURES IN THIS PROGRAM,EN ISSUING I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE ARE AWARE OF WHERE WE'RE AT WITHIN THE BRONX AND WHAT THESE CHILDREN LOOK LIKE, WHAT LANGUAGES THEY SPEAK AT HOME, WHAT MUSIC THEY LISTEN TO AT HOME.

AND LETTING THEM KNOW THAT THIS IS AMERICAN BALLET, AND IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE AND REPRESENT AMERICA, AND THAT'S A MELTING POT OF CULTURES.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, AGAIN, I THINK HAVING THE REPRESENTATION THERE IN THE ROOM, PEOPLE THAT CAN SPEAK TO THESE DANCERS, WHICH I'M CALLING THEM -- NOT STUDENTS, BUT THEY'RE DANCER FROM THE MOMENT THEY STEP INTO THAT STUDIO, AND GIVING THEM AN EXPERIENCE WHERE THEY FEEL LIKE THEY'RE SEEN, THEY'RE HEARD, GIVING THEM THE ABILITY TO HAVE MORE OF A VOICE, WHICH ISN'T OFTEN ENCOURAGED, OR YOU DON'T SEE THAT IN THE BALLET STRUCTURE.

BUT IN THE CURRICULUM WE'VE BUILT AND THE FRAME WORK, IT'S ALLOWING THEM TO HAVE MORE OF AN IDENTITY AS A PERSON AND AS AN INDIVIDUAL, AND I THINK THAT THAT WILL REALLY CHANGE THE WAY PEOPLE LOOK AT BALLET AND DANCE.

IT'S POSSIBLE.

BECAUSE ONCE YOU BECOME A PROFESSIONAL, THEY EXPECT YOU TO HAVE ALL OF THIS SHADING AND LAYER.

YOU BECOME AN ARTIST, IS AND THEY WANT YOU TO HAVE HUMAN EXPERIENCES AND BRING IN ALL OF OUR WHATEVER IT IS.

SO I THINK WE NEED TO START FROM THE BEGINNING WITH CHILDREN.

WELL, YOU SORT OF LAID OUT WHAT YOU -- THE PLAN IS AND HOW THIS IS GOING TO WORK, BUT ONE MORE TIME, TO BE CLEAR, HOW WOULD THIS AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM WORK?

WHEN KIDS GET OUT OF SCHOOL, THEY'RE GOING TO -- AND THEN FILL IN THE BLANK.

YES.

SO, MOST OF THESE CHILDREN WE HAVE ACCESS TO RIGHT NOW ARE ALREADY MEMBER OF THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB, SO THIS IS NOT -- AGAIN THIS IS THE BEGINNING STAGES.

WE JUST LAUNCHED IN SEPTEMBER.

SO RIGHT NOW WHERE WE ARE STARTING IS WITH BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS BECAUSE IT MADE SENSE.

THEY WERE PREPARED AND READY.

THEY HAD THE SPACE AND EVERYTHING KIND OF SET IN STRUCTURE.

BUT IT WILL EVENTUALLY BE IN DIFFERENT COMMUNITY CENTERS, IN DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES.

BUT THE CHILD CAN SIGN UP FOR THE CLASS.

THEY WILL GO AFTER SCHOOL.

IT'S AN HOUR-LONG CLASS, AND AGAIN IT'S TWICE A WEEK AND FOR 12 WEEKS.

THEY'LL BE ABLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO MENTORING AND TUTORS, ALL THESE THINGS THAT ARE IMPLEMENT ALREADY IN THESE COMMUNITY CENTER LIKE THE BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB.

SPEAK OF MENTORING, LET'S GET INTO YOUR BOOK, 'THE WIND AT MY BACK.'

ONE OF THE THINGS I THOUGHT WAS SO INTERESTING WAS YOU OPENED UP WITH THE SCENE, OR AT LEAST YOUR RECOLLECTIONS OF THE SCENE OF WATCHING NOW SUPREME COURT JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON GO THROUGH HER CONFIRMATION PROCESS, AND JUST THAT EXPERIENCE OF HOW YOU RELATED TO, YOU ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE THE ONLY BLACK PERSON IN THE ROOM THAT MIGHT BE EITHER LOW-KEY OR OUTWARDLY AGGRESSIVELY HOSTILE TO YOUR BEING THERE.

AND I'M WONDERING HOW YOU WERE ABLE TO DRAW ON THE MENTORSHIP THAT YOU GOT FROM RAVEN WILKINSON, WHO AS YOU POINT OUT IN THE BOOK, WAS THERE AT AN EARLIER TIME WHEN THE HOSTILITY WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH MORE OVERT.

THE MOMENT I LEARNED OF RAVEN'S STORY, I WAS AT A CRITICAL -- IT WAS A CRITICAL MOMENT IN TIME IN MY CAREER.

I WAS A SOLOIST AT AMERICAN BALLET THEATER.

STILL ALONE, STILL THE ONLY BLOCK WOMAN IN THE COMPANY, WHICH I WAS FOR THE FIRST DECADE OF MY CAREER, AND REALLY STILL SEARCHING FOR MY PURPOSE.

YOU KNOW, WAS THIS REALLY THE PLACE FOR ME?

EXISTING -- YOU KNOW, DAY IN AND DAY OUT, YOU KNOW, LIVING IN A DIVERSE CITY LIKE NEW YORK CITY, BUT I'M SPENDING EIGHT HOURS A DAY ONLY SEEING WHITE PEOPLE IN A BUILDING REHEARSING.

YOU KNOW, IT WAS A BIT CONFUSING AS TO, LIKE, IF THIS REALLY WAS THE PAST FOR ME.

AND THEN SEEING RAVEN'S STORY, LEARN OF HER THROUGH A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE COMPANY SHE DANCE IN.

SHE WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY BLACK WOMAN TO DANCE IN THAT COMPANY, AND HAD A FAIRLY SHORT STINT THERE BECAUSE OF RACISM.

THE COMPANY WOULD TOUR THROUGH THE SOUTH AND EXPERIENCING THE K KRK K CATCHING WIND THAT SHE WAS THERE, AND ON TOUR WITH THE COMPANY.

AND SEEING HER STORY, I IMMEDIATELY KELT LIKE I SAW MYSELF, AND IT WAS EXHILARATING TO LEARN OF ANOTHER BLACK WOMAN WHO LITERALLY WALKED MY PATH 50 YEARS PRIOR.

AND ALSO, IT WAS DEVASTAING TO KNOW THAT SO LITTLE HAD CHANGED AND THAT SO FEW PEOPLE KNOW OF HER STORY.

AND SO I FELT THIS HUGE RESPONSIBILITY IN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WAY TO TELL HER STORY, THAT MY PURPOSE WAS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN ME.

IT BECAME LESS ABOUT REACHING THIS GOAL OF BECOMING A PRINCIPLE DANCER AND BEING THE BEST DANCER I COULD BE, BUT WHAT IT MEANT TO HAVE THE PLATFORM I HAVE AND USE IT IN A WAY WHERE I COULD IMPACT OR INFLUENCE OR CHANGE THE COURSE OF SOMEONE'S LIFE, GIVE THEM, YOU KNOW, THE ABILITY TO SEE THEMSELVES THROUGH ME.

SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S BEEN SUCH AN HONOR TO BE ABLE TO SHARE HER STORY THROUGH THIS BOOK.

OF COURSE.

IT BEGS THE QUESTION, AT LEAST TO ME, BECAUSE RIGHT NOW WE DEFINITELY SEE A PLACE WHERE SO MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ARE -- ESPECIALLY YOUNG PEOPLE OF COLOR -- ARE ASKING THEMSELVES, IS IT WORTH THE AMOUNT OF EMOTIONAL, SPIRITUAL ABUSE THAT IT TAKES TO BE THE FIRST ONE TO BREAK INTO A SPACE WHERE PEOPLE OF COLOR HADN'T BEEN BEFORE?

AND ON TOP OF THAT, DARED TO LEAD.

FOR YOU LOOKING BACK ON NOT JUST YOUR EXPERIENCE, BUT RAVEN'S EXPERIENCE BUT, MENTION SO MANY OTHER, BY THE WAY, GROUND BREAKING DANCERS IN THE BOOK.

BUT HOW DO YOU SEE IT ULTIMATELY BEING WORTH IT?

I MEAN, I WOULD DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN 100 TIMES.

WHEN I SEE THE YOUNG PEOPLE, THE YOUNG BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE WHO ARE COMING TO SEE PERFORMANCES WHO ARE AT THE STAGE DOOR, WHO FEEL SEEN AND FEEL HEARD AND FEEL LIKE, EVEN IF THEIR PASS ISN'T DANCE, THEY WOULD PUT THEMSELVES IN A POSITION TO BE THE ONLY -- TO BE THE FIRST, WHATEVER IT IS.

TO PUSH AND PERSEVERE IN A LANE WHERE THEY'RE NOT CELEBRATED OR SEEN OR GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES TO, THEN THAT'S WORTH IT.

YOU KNOW, TO -- I MEAN, WHAT RAVEN EXPERIENCED, I FEEL LIKE I WENT THROUGH, LIKE THIS MUCH OF, YOU KNOW, THE PAIN, YOU KNOW, AND ALL OF THE HEART ACHE AND UPS AND DOWNS, ASKING HER LIFE THREATENED.

THAT'S ON ANOTHER LEVEL FROM WHAT I'VE EXPERIENCED IN MY CAREER.

IT MAKE IT ALL WORTH IT IF YOU'RE GOING TO CHANGE THE EXPERIENCE OF SO MANY YOUNG BLACK AND BROWN DANCER IN THE FUTURE.

WHEN YOU MENTION THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO COME AND SEE YOU NOW, YOU MENTIONED IT ONCE BEFORE WHEN YOU WERE ON 'METROFOCUS' WITH MY COLLEAGUE JACK FORD.

BUT I'M WONDERING IF YOU COULD REITERATE FOR US WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU FIRST SAW RAVEN DANCE, AND WHAT DID THAT DO FOR YOU?

I DIDN'T SEE HER DANCE LIVE BECAUSE I WAS TOO YOUNG OR NOT BORN YET.

BUT WHEN I SAW HER FOR THE FIRST TIME ON SCREEN AND I SAW HER IN WHAT IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST WHITE ROLES AS AN SILF IN WHAT IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE WHITE BALLETS, THE BALLET BLANCS, THAT BECAME ONE OF HER ICONIC ROLES.

TO SEE HER ON THE SCREEN DANCING, I MEAN, IT WAS LIKE EYE OPENING.

I LITERALLY FELT LIKE, OH, I DO BELONG IN THIS SPACE, AND I DO HAVE A HISTORY IN THIS SPACE.

AND IT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME TO DIG DEEPER AND UNDERSTAND ALL OF THE BLACK DANCERS WHO HAVE COME BEFORE ME WHO HAVE ALLOWED FOR ME TO BE HERE, WHO HAVE SLOWLY CARVED AWAY AT THAT, YOU KNOW, GLASS CEILING IN ORDER FOR ME TO BE IN THE POSITION THAT I'M IN.

SO I UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ON THE STAGE AND FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO SEE ME, AND I HAD THAT EXPERIENCE THAT THE FIRST TIME I REALLY SAW A HUGE CHANGE AND IMPACT ON MY COMMUNITY WAS THE FIRST TIME I DANCED THE FIRE BIRD AT LING CONSENTER AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE.

IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I WAS DOING THE LEAD, THE PRINCIPAL ROLE IN A FULL LENGTH CLASSICAL WORK.

IT WAS THE FIRST TIME A BLACK WOMAN WAS PERFORMING THAT ROLE, AND MY COMMUNITY TURNS OUT.

THE MET WAS FULL OF BLACK PEOPLE, AND YOUNG BLACK PEOPLE.

IT WAS SO POWERFUL, AND I FEEL LIKE THE AUDIENCES HAVE CHANGED EVER SINCE.

I DO WANT TO ALSO ASK, BECAUSE PROGRESS ISN'T SOMETHING -- AS MUCH AS ONE PERSON CARRIES, IT'S VERY MUCH A GROUP EFFORT, AND YET THERE STILL SEEMED TO BE PERHAPS SOME STUMBLING BLOCKS FOR THE BALLET COMMUNITY, AND A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF THAT WOULD BE WHEN YOU CALLED OUT THE BOLSHOI FOR THEIR USE OF BLACK FACE, EVEN RECENTLY, AND THE BACKLASH THAT IT INCURRED.

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT?

YEAH, IT'S DEFINITELY -- IT NEEDS TO BE A COMMUNITY EFFORT, AND IT STARTED WITH ME HAVING THE SUPPORT OF THE BLACK COMMUNITY, BEFORE I HAD THE SUPPORT OF THE BALLET COMMUNITY.

BUT AS YOU WERE SAYING, A PRIME EXAMPLE OF THAT IS, YOU KNOW, WHEN -- IT'S KIND OF A KNOWN THING IN THE BALLET WORLD, AND NO ONE JUST REALLY TALKED ABOUT IT.

BUT IN EUROPE IN A LOT OF COMPANIES AND THE BOLSHOI IN RUSSIA AND SPECIFICALLY STILL PERFORMED CERTAIN BALLETS IN BLACK FACE AS THEY WERE ORIGINALLY CREATED AND INTENDED, AND I FELT LIKE, YOU KNOW, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE TALKED ABOUT.

THE FACT THAT THIS IS NOT JUST -- THESE AREN'T JUST PERFORMANCES THAT ARE HAPPENING THERE IN RUSSIA.

EVERYONE HAS ACCESS TO SEEING THESE THINGS ONLINE, ON INSTAGRAM, ON YOUTUBE, AND THAT'S WHERE I SAW IT.

I SAW IT BEING POSTED ON INSTAGRAM BY DANCERS WHO WERE IN THE COMPANY.

AND INSTEAD OF GETTING BACKING AND SUPPORT FROM THE BALLET COMMUNITY EVERYONE JUST KIND OF PUT THEIR HANDS UP AND SHUT THEIR MOUTHS AND I WAS LEFT THERE ON AN ISLAND TO HAVE THESE RUSSIAN -- WHATEVER -- NEWSPAPERS ATTACKING ME.

AND YOU KNOW, WE HAVE COME A LITTLE BIT OF A WAYS CLOSER TO, YOU KNOW, BEING ABLE TO HAVE THESE CONVERSATIONS INTERNALLY WITHIN THE BALLET COMMUNITY.

YOU KNOW, POST GEORGE FLOYD'S MURDER I'VE SEEN A CHANGE.

MORE OF A CHANGE THAN I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY 20 PLUS YEARS IN THE BALLET WORLD.

SO THERE IS SOME CHANGE HAPPENING, BUT WE ALL HAVE TO CONTINUE TO SPEAK UP AND -- AND POINT OUT THE IMPORTANCE OF ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WHOLE COMMUNITIES ARE BEING HURT AND AFFECTED WHEN WE CONTINUE THIS RHETORIC AND THAT IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO MAKE PROGRESS AND GROW WITH THE STORIES WE'RE TELLING AND THAT THOSE STORIES SHOULD REPRESENT ALL COMMUNITIES WHO ARE COMING TO SUPPORT THE BALLET.

I WANT TO ASK ABOUT REPRESENTATION, ESPECIALLY WITH ONE OF THE RECENT ALL-BLACK PRODUCTIONS THAT TOOK PLACE, BUT BEFORE WE GET TO THAT, I WANT TO ALSO ASK ABOUT PERHAPS AN UNLIKELY PERSON WHO SUPPORTED YOU IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY, AND THAT OF ALL PEOPLE WAS PRINCE.

WHAT ROLE DID HE PLAY IN SUPPORTING YOU?

YOU KNOW, I HAVE HAD SUCH AN AMAZING JOURNEY AND PRIVILEGE AND HONOR OF HAVING INCREDIBLE MENTORS IN MY LIFE, AND THEY'VE MAJORITY BEEN BLACK WOMEN.

MY HUSBAND, THOUGH, BEING AN AMAZING BLACK MAN AND SOMEONE THAT'S BEEN SUCH A HUGE INFLUENCE IN MY LIFE.

BUT PRINCE COMING INTO MY LIFE, HE CAME INTO MY LIFE BEFORE RAVEN.

ACTUALLY, IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN AROUND THE SAME TIME AS RAVEN.

AND IT WAS SO ENCOURAGING AND INSPIRING AND IMPACTFUL TO HAVE SOMEONE OF HIS LEVEL OF ARTISTIC GENIUS AND -- YOU KNOW, WITH HIS PLATFORM AND THE WAY HE SPEAKS UP AND SPOKE UP AND STOOD UP FOR HIS COMMUNITY ALWAYS, YOU KNOW, TO HAVE HIM SAY TO ME, YOU KNOW, WHEN I'M IN A.B.T., THINKING I'M ALONE, I'M ISOLATED, I'M THE ONLY -- AND HE'S LIKE, THIS IS FANTASTIC.

YOU KNOW, YOU'RE AN INDIVIDUAL.

YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE.

YOU STAND OUT.

THIS IS AMAZING.

AND I NEVER LOOKED AT MY CAREER IN THAT WAY.

AND HE KIND OF CHANGED MY PERSPECTIVE IN HOW I COULD LOOK AT THE POWER I HOLD.

IF I HAVE TO SUPPORT.

THE POWER I COULD HOLD BY BEING THE ONLY AND TO HAVE SOMEONE LIKE HIM, YOU KNOW, WHO WAS SUCH A UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL KIND OF EXPLAIN TO ME WHAT IT IS TO HAVE POWER AND OWN THAT UNIQUENESS, IT PLAYED A BIG ROLE IN THE PERSON THAT I AM TODAY.

SO, MISTY, NOT ONLY SOME OF THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAVE HAD, BUT ALSO DID YOU EVER THINK THERE WOULD BE A POINT WHEN THERE WOULD BE AN ALL-BLACK PRODUCTION IN THE AMERICAN BALLET THEATER?

FOR EXAMPLE, 'LIFTED' THAT RECENTLY HAPPENED SEEMED TO BE INCREDIBLY GROUND BREAKING.

YEAH, I DON'T KNOW THAT I COULD SAY 20 YEARS AGO THAT I COULD HAVE IMAGINED YOU KNOW, CHRISTOPHER RUDD'S 'LIFTED', AN ALL-BLACK, CREATIVE PROCESS FROM THE CONDUCTOR, COMPOSER, PRODUCTION DESIGNERS, DANCERS.

IT'S INCREDIBLE TO SEE REPRESENTATION FROM ALL ANGLES COMING TOGETHER AND THAT AMERICAN BALLET THEATER PUT THIS PRODUCTION ON, YOU KNOW, STARTING OUT AS THE ONLY BLACK WOMAN, AGAIN, IT WAS -- I DIDN'T KNOW IF I'D EVER SEE A BLACK CHOREOGRAPHER COME INTO THIS SPACE.

SO THIS IS A LOT OF PROGRESS, AND I KNOW THAT SO MANY YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE LOOKING AT ALL OF THESE BLACK CREATIVES BEING SEEN IN THIS SPACE, ON THIS LEVEL, IT'S REALLY, REALLY EXCITING.

OF COURSE, OF COURSE, AND IT'S NOT JUST -- WORKING IN THE FIELD IS NOT JUST BEING ON STAGE, BUT A LOT OF IT IS BEHIND IMPORTANT.

YES.

WELL, WE'VE GOT ABOUT 30 SECOND LEFT, BUT I'D BE REMISS IF I DIDN'T MENTION YOU ARE ALSO A NEW MOMMY.

HOW HAS THAT CHANGED YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

I GUESS I'LL KNOW MORE WHEN I'M BACK ON STAGE AFTER HAVING BEEN A MOM, BECAUSE I STILL HAVEN'T BEEN BACK ON STAGE, BUT YOU KNOW, IT MAKES YOU TAKE A STEP BACK AND LOOK AT YOUR LIFE AND THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, YOU'RE REALLY NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

[ LAUGHTER ]

THERE'S SOMEONE ELSE THERE THAT'S SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAT YOU WANT TO FILL WITH LOVE AND OPPORTUNITY AND ACCESS AND ALL THE THING YOU DIDN'T HAVE, AND I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE HIM GROW UP.

ALL RIGHT, WELL, MISTY COPELAND, OF COURSE, BE BOLD IS THE NEW INITIATIVE AND LOOK FOR HER NEW MEMOIR, 'THE WIND AT MY BACK: RESILIENCE, GRACE, AND OTHER GIFTS FROM MY MENTOR, RAVEN WILKINSON.'

MISTY, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AGAIN ON 'METROFOCUS,' AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING MORE ABOUT THE BE BOLD PROGRAM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

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