By Charlene Co
15 December 2020
Under the unforgiving, highly competitive and elitist spotlight of classical ballet, Misty Copeland shines. Copeland, who in 2015 became the first African-American promoted to principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT), moves with youthful exuberance, stunning artistry and sheer veracity.
She’s come a long way from her days of attending ballet classes on the basketball court of a local youth community centre. There, at the late age of 13, she learned her pliés and elevés while living in a motel room, struggling for a space to sleep on the floor with her five other siblings. But as most awe-inspiring stories go, this rough journey propelled her to successes she never thought was even remotely possible.
Over her 25-year career, Copeland has taken on a range of both classical and contemporary roles – among her most notable ones was in 2012, when she performed the title role in The Firebird, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, and the lead role of Odette/Odile in ABT’s Swan Lake in 2014, making history as the first black woman to assume the role. In 2015, she was promoted to principal dancer at ABT, and in the same year named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Copeland’s professional success provided her with a platform from which she continues to rally passionately behind racial and gender equality, and inspires aspiring young ballerinas, especially those of colour and from less privileged circumstances.
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