Principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater, Misty Copeland, discussed the lasting impacts George Floyd’s death has had in the ballet world during a recent interview with Pointe Magazine for her new book, “Black Ballerinas: My Journey To Our Legacy.”
The book — which was released Nov. 2 — is geared towards middle schoolers who can take inspiration from Misty’s story and “the trailblazing women who made [Misty’s] own success possible by pushing back against repression and racism with their talent and tenacity.”
As the first African-American ballerina to become a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater (ABT), Misty has experienced her fair share of obstacles and discrimination as she’s made her way to the top. Like many other industries, the ballet world has historically struggled with making the art of ballet and the craft of its performers accessible and diverse.
In her interview with Pointe Magazine, Copeland said that in the time since the racial reckoning that occurred in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, she’s finally seeing some changes happen in the ballet scene related to diversity and representation.
“It’s been incredible,” Copeland said of the effects in the industry following Floyd’s passing and subsequent protests. “What’s happened in the last year and a half is the most movement I’ve seen in all of my career. It’s been pretty impressive to see such change in a really short, concentrated period of time because of this racial reckoning within the world.”
Noting that she “recently watched” Black male ballet dancer Calvin Royal III make his debut as Albrecht in the ballet “Giselle,” Copeland also spoke about the industry changes in how Black ballerinas are styled as well.
“And for my entire career, there have been a lot of discussions about whether Black dancers should wear tights that represented their skin color,” Copeland emphasized. “To see [corps member] Erica Lall onstage in “Giselle,” wearing tights that were her color, was huge progress. I felt like I saw her as a person the way that every other dancer is allowed to be seen as an individual, even if they’re in the corps de ballet.”
“At ABT, we’ve had talks about diversity initiatives and bringing in more people of color, not just within the company but in other areas of the institution, and to see it happening is huge,” Copeland shared. “Now, it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep it moving, and not to settle in this moment.”
“I think next is tackling the stories that we’re telling onstage, especially here in America. They need to be relevant and [show] that there’s more than one type of person,” the star ballerina noted.
If you’re interested in “Black Ballerinas: My Journey To Our Legacy,” find retailers here.