Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal dancer by the American Ballet Theater, becoming the company’s first black female principal in its 75-year history. Hell yes.
Copeland’s promotion came after 14 years with the company. Born to a low-income family, Copeland took her first ballet class at the relatively late age of 13 at the San Pedro Boys & Girls Club in California; she joined ABT’s junior company in 2000, the main company’s ensemble in 2001, and was promoted to soloist in 2007, only the second black woman given that distinction by the American Ballet Theater.
“I think when I joined Ballet Theater, there were people on the staff who did not want to see a brown person in the corps onstage,” Copeland, 32, told the New York Times last year, a depressingly unsurprising statement considering the overwhelming whiteness that continues to define the world of professional ballet.
However, WSJ points out, Misty Copeland’s incredible mainstream popularity—a Time cover, a memoir, a partnership with Under Armour, a documentary—might be a catalyst for real change. “Ms. Copeland’s popularity has demonstrated [...] that there is a direct link between breaking a color barrier onstage and drawing a broad audience.”
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