Update: Misty Copeland Opens Up About Becoming The First Black Principal Dancer At The American Ballet Theater

July 1, 2015  |  

Update #2- 7/1/2015:
Yesterday, MadameNoire trooped to Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House to hear Misty Copeland speak about her promotion and how her colleagues perceive her at American Ballet Theater after becoming a media sensation.

During her press conference, Copeland gently yet firmly emphasized that she received her promotion because of her skill set and hard work. She also revealed how her colleagues think of her as Misty and not as “Misty The Black Dancer.” For example Copeland shared a conversation she had with one of the ballet masters:

“She said to me yesterday, ‘Don’t be offended by what I am about to say, but I just look at you as a talented dancer who has earned really- hard- to- get roles. So I didn’t think twice that it’s a big deal for an African-American woman to be performing in Swan Lake. I just thought you deserved it.

Copeland also became emotional while saying that she never thought she would have a successful career in dance because many Black dancers only reach a certain career level or give up the career altogether. The news is personally momentous for Copeland who was told on numerous occasions she was not the right “fit” to be a ballerina. Naysayers believed her body type and studying dance from the age of 13 would not bring her success. Thankfully, they were wrong.

Copeland also talked about what she hoped would come from her new role.

“I want see young girls who look like me be on stage, enrolled in dance schools and in the audience. This has been always one of my goals and I am excited to see some change happen,” she said.

Read more about the ABT’s diversity efforts here.

Update- 6/30/2015:

Today, Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position.

Her promotion comes after 14 years with the company. For eight of those years, Copeland served as a soloist. Over the past year, Copeland  performed several lead roles and her performances have drawn the large diverse crowds to the Metropolitan Opera House, Brooklyn Academy Of Music and Lincoln Center in New York City. The New York Times says the crowd cheered “Principal! Principal, Misty! Principal, dear!” after her Swan Lake performance last week.  She responded by thanking her fans.

“It means so much to me to have you all here,” she said. “It’s such a special day for me, and for so many people who have come before me. So thank you for being here on this amazing day.”

Congratulations Misty, we’re proud of you!

Original Story- 6/26/2015:

American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland is one step away from being one of the dance company’s principal dancers. If promoted to principal, Copeland will be the first African-American woman to reach such a rank at the 75-year-old company. Principal dancers are appointed at the end of the company’s season, tentatively on July 4, reports the Wall Street Journal. Currently, three of ABT’s principal dancers have retired, only leaving six.

At age 32, Copeland has already been given dancing principal roles such as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and she has an upcoming role in “Swan Lake” for ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House. In recent years, Copeland has also gained pop culture recognition by performing with Prince and releasing a best-selling memoir about becoming a ballet sensation despite her impoverished background.

This past spring, Copeland made the cover of TIME magazine and was interviewed on the television program 60 Minutes. Though her growing publicity, several veteran ballet dancers have told the Wall Street Journal that it does not influence how promotions are granted at ballet companies. Former American Ballet Theatre principal Angel Corella, who now serves as the artistic director at Pennsylvania Ballet, says promotion is strictly affected by art and commerce: “It’s a very difficult position. You have to keep your integrity. But you have to be thinking about what the audience wants.”

Despite the technicalities, Copeland who has served as a role model in a field where diversity is severely lacking will be known has a leader who has opened a door for those who thought becoming a ballet dancer is an  inaccessible dream. She told the WSJ in December, “Being African-American has pushed me to work harder than I might have if I didn’t have that obstacle. If I had to stop today, I would be so proud of what I’ve done.”

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