History was made Tuesday when the American Ballet Theater promoted 32-year-old Misty Copeland to Principal Ballerina.
Already named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman to be named principal ballerina at A.B.T. in the company’s 75-year history.
Misty is arguably the most famous ballerina in the U.S. at the moment, having successfully played some of ballet’s more noteworthy roles, including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Clara in The Nutcracker, and Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty.
Amid the overwhelmingly positive response to Copeland’s promotion, the news nevertheless raises questions about why African-American dancers, particularly women, are still so underrepresented in elite ballet companies, despite significant racial barriers having been broken by black dancers in the past.
“I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level,” Misty Copeland said at a news conference at the Metropolitan Opera House on Tuesday afternoon. “At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.”
The good news was received on social media with Misty tweeting “Thank you!!!” to her 500,000 followers on twitter. Luminaries from the music industry and the political world also lauded her success, with Hilary Clinton posting Copeland’s name to her “Women who inspire” board.
In addition to her undeniable dancing skills, the Misty Copeland has also become a role model for young women, promoting a body-positive message which sought to shift attitudes and stereotypical assumptions within the ballet world. She showcased her toned, muscular body and incredible strength in her ad for Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” ad campaign recorded last year.
“For me, it was a learning process of accepting that my body is my instrument, and I have to take care of it, and that it’s okay to be healthy and athletic,” Misty previously told Elle.com, “A.B.T. supports that image, that you don’t have to be anorexic and real thin, but you do have to take that responsibility [to take care of it].”
Copeland has now realized her ambition to become the first principal dancer with A.B.T. “History is beautiful,” as someone succinctly put it.
[Photo By: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment]