Misty Copeland's Pointe Shoes
Misty Copeland didn’t fit the classical ballet mold. Thank God for the gentleman that decided to make her a principal dancer because she has vision. It needs to happen with a couple more African Americans, but she is paving the way. When she was here doing her book signing, hundreds of kids were waiting to get her autograph, calling [out], “Thank you, Misty Copeland! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Raven Wilkinson had to put on lighter makeup to get by. And there is Carmen de Lavallade, who just got a Kennedy Center [Honor] the other night. Those people paved the way for the Misty Copelands of today.
Those slippers, of course, have resonance. Misty Copeland is from Southern California and African American. When she was just fifteen, she won first place in The Music Center's Spotlight program in downtown L.A. As an Angeleno and person of mixed ethnic background, that has a very direct connection for me.
What a trailblazer! What an icon. What an inspiration she is to young girls of all ethnic backgrounds. Yes, of course, she’s the first African American prima ballerina at American Ballet Theatre, but she breaks the mold in terms of not just what we expect a prima ballerina to look like, in that her skin color is different, but also because her body is different. She is strong; she is muscular. She is comfortable in the body that she has, and when she steps onstage, while some ballerinas project fragile, delicate beauty, Misty projects confident, strong gorgeousness.
I remember when she became principal dancer. My daughter actually sent me a link. That was, what, less than five years ago? To have that color barrier broken five years ago, it seems to me to be interesting in the frame of Americana because I thought that we were past breaking racial barriers. I just assumed that there wasn’t anything left. But to know that being the featured female dancer for ABT was still a barrier that hadn’t been broken, it caught me by surprise. Then I started thinking, Okay, what other things are still on the frontier?