This Dancer Could Break an Enduring Ballet Barrier

Misty Copeland has torn down walls her whole career
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2015 11:52 AM CDT
This Dancer Could Break an Enduring Ballet Barrier
Misty Copeland arrives at the 69th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 7, 2015, in New York.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Ballet star Misty Copeland may break another barrier if she can snag just one more promotion. The dance world is buzzing that the 32-year-old may become the American Ballet Theatre’s first black principal dancer. The company has gone its full 75 years without an African-American in the prestigious role, but classical ballet is not known for its diversity. Copeland was the first black ballerina to play the lead in Firebird at a major company, one of the first to dance as Odette in a top production of Swan Lake, and is only the third black soloist (the rank just below principal) at Ballet Theatre, which lost three of its nine female principals to retirement this year. Despite her accomplishments, she's not necessarily a shoo-in. "It’s a very difficult position," a former company principal tells the Wall Street Journal.

Audiences certainly seem to love Copeland. Her Swan Lake performances sold out in days, Yahoo reported in April, and her memoir, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, was a bestseller. The California-bred dancer is also a hit on social media, with more than 500,000 Instagram followers and, ELLE noted in April, a viral Under Armour campaign under her belt. Whether or not she is selected as a principal at the end of Ballet Theatre’s season on July 4, her achievements have likely opened doors for countless other minority ballerinas. "I think it's so important for young dancers of color to have someone who looks like them as an example—someone they can touch," Copeland told ELLE last year. "I tell them to be true to themselves." (Read more ballet stories.)

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