*Many of us had never heard of Misty Copeland until she became the first African-American principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater back in June. Since then, she continues to be a source of inspiration for young Black girls and women, by offering insight into how she overcame the challenges of working in a world where she often felt isolated because she is a woman of color with a body type not typical of your average ballet dancer.
Copland’s incredible journey of poor girl raised by a struggling single mother-to international superstar, is documented in Nelson George’s documentary, “A Ballerina’s Tale.” In it, Copeland speaks on not fitting in-in the predominately white industry of Ballet:
“I’m a Black dancer. That’s who I am. It’s so much a part of my story. I didn’t fit the mold. Based on my body type, pedigree, and background, I should not have been part of one of the world’s greatest ballet companies….I don’t think the ballet world will ever accept me. I have a large chest [and] I’m muscular.”
During an interview with NPR in July, Copeland attributed racism as the reason why ballet has been a difficult field for African-American women to break into.
“I think that the reason is the racism and not wanting to change this very traditional art form that has been the way it – you know, successful in the way it is for so long. And it’s hard to be the one that stands out when, you know, in a ballet company, you’re trying to create unison and uniform when you’re in a cour de ballet.”
After her historic promotion at the ABT was announced, Copeland cited a conversation with a ballet master during a press conference, saying:
“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.’”
The documentary is executive produced by performing artist and choreographer Ingrid Graham, who is a Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) performer and also sits on the tenured theatre company’s Advisory Board.
Check out the trailer for Copeland “A Ballerina’s Tale” below.