On June 30, Misty Copeland made history, becoming the first black principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. The 32-year-old, a long-time member of the company and a soloist since 2007, told NPR last year that achieving this promotion, the first in the 75-year history of the company, was always her top goal .
"The higher you go up in rank, usually the longer you can dance," she said. "I absolutely love what I do, and I want to dance for as long as I can and feel good about what I am putting out there on the stage. ... My goal has always been to be a principal dancer with ABT."
In an Instagram video posted yesterday, Misty shared the emotional moment she learned she had been named a principal dancer for the coming season.
Copeland's rise to becoming one of the world's most famous ballerinas is an inspiring story made all the more incredible because of her humble beginnings. When she first started taking lessons at 13, an age considered by some to be "too old" for anyone considering pursuing professional ballet, she was living with her mother and five siblings out of a hotel room.
"I was never, you know, the popular one, the pretty one,” she told PBS. "These big long feet and skinny legs and skinny limbs were all these things that I thought were negative things in how we view beauty in our society, and then when I was introduced to the ballet world, all of those qualities were beauty for a ballerina."
A little over four years later, Copeland's talent had propelled her into the cream of the crop of the ballet world, joining the American Ballet Theatre in New York City at age 19.
From the beginning, she told Vogue, all she wanted to do was fit in. "I was going through a lot. Just becoming an adult and just wanting to fit in, be accepted, and be in common with the other dancers," she said. "And I just went through a phase where I felt I was just so different than everyone. I came from a different background. Just so many things I felt like no one could understand or relate to me. And just hearing things every so often, like the fact that I don’t exactly look like a 'white swan.' It was very difficult."
This past month, Copeland silenced all those who dared to challenge her dream, taking on the lead role of Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake." Writing for the Financial Times, Apollinaire Scherr crafted a paragraph on her performance that perfectly summed up her impact on stage:
"Beautiful: legs tapering into gorgeous arched feet, on which she travelled with the fluid whirr of hummingbird wings; an expressive back she stretched like a bow; flickering Balanchinean speed in intricate legwork and turns; luxuriant arms with which she gathered up the air around her; and vivid mime for the crucial storytelling passages in Swan Lake."
As the new lead principal dancer for the ABT, Copeland's ability to keep audiences spellbound and inspire future generations of dancers will continue for quite some time to come.
"It’s important for them to know where I came from, where I am now, and that I haven’t reached all my goals," she added to Vogue. "There is so much more that I want to do; and I am not giving up."
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