Misty Copeland, the ballerina who vaulted the ballet world to become a symbol of diversity in her art form, has been promoted to principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, making her the first female African-American dancer to reach that high status in the 75-year history of the storied company.
She was one of a number of dancer announcements ABT made Tuesday, but Copeland’s achievement garnered the most attention.
Misty joined the ABT in 2001 and became a sololist in 2007. She appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of 2015.
In 2014 Misty wrote a best selling memoir Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina. She’s appeared in a Diet Dr. Pepper commercial and an Under Armour ad.
Even as her promotion was celebrated by her many fans, it raised all-too-familiar questions about why African-American dancers, particularly women, remain so underrepresented at top ballet companies in the 21st century, despite the work of pioneering black dancers who broke racial barriers in the past. And it showed how media and communications have changed in dance, with Ms. Copeland deftly using modern tools — an online ad she made for Under Armour has been viewed more than 8 million times — to spread her fame far beyond traditional dance circles, drawing new audiences to ballet.
“I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level,” Ms. Copeland said at a news conference at the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday afternoon. “At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.”
The past year has been a busy one for Misty. She danced in leading roles with the ABT and she starred in Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House. She was the first African American dancer to do this.
Congratulations to Misty!!