The American Ballet Theatre hired Misty Copeland when she was just 18.
I had never, ever, thought, I’m black, and no one else looks like me. At ABT, I realized, Oh, I do have this other thing that could work against me or for me. I always thought my talent would take me as far as I could go, and it was the first time I felt like maybe it wouldn’t.
ABT’s artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, says that her race was never an issue, but the need for her technique to come up to the necessary level. In 2007, however, he noticed “an edge that had been missing. I think the responsibility of her talent dawned on her.” In August of that year she was promoted from the corps.
Then she got the famous call from Prince asking her to collaborate with him; first for a video then on some dates during his Welcome 2 America tour.
I think he sees someone who’s free and spiritual, and he’s expressed that he doesn’t see that in a lot of classical dancers.
So taken was he that he donated $250,000 to ABT!
Now Copeland will have a principal part in Alexei Ratmansky’s new ballet, and will also reprise a signature pas de deux in Giselle. Ballet remains the primary focus for Copeland as well as Prince.
He has never said, ‘Don’t look so much like a ballerina.’ What’s No. 1 for him is that I am a ballerina.
Photo: Mark Seliger