Tag: “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina”

FEATURE: Misty Copeland Channels Degas’ Ballerinas for Photo Shoot, Opens Up about Making History

Copeland re-creates Degas’s The Star; Valentino dress, $15,500, 212-355-5811; Wilhelm headpiece, $495, and corsages, $135, wilhelm-nyc.com; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard, 212-869-8900. Photos by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory (via harpersbazaar.com)

Ballet dancers, Misty Copeland tells me, like to be in control. It’s something about ballet itself—the painstaking quest to achieve the appearance of a kind of effortless athleticism, fluidity, and grace—that makes it hard to let go. “I think all dancers are control freaks a bit,” she explains. “We just want to be in control of ourselves and our bodies. That’s just what the ballet structure, I think, kind of puts inside of you. If I’m put in a situation where I am not really sure what’s going to happen, it can be overwhelming. I get a bit anxious.”

Copeland says that’s part of the reason she found posing for the images that accompany this story—which were inspired by Edgar Degas‘s paintings and sculptures of dancers at the Paris Opéra Ballet—a challenge. “It was interesting to be on a shoot and to not have the freedom to just create like I normally do with my body,” she says. “Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult. It was amazing just to notice all of the small details but also how he still allows you to feel like there’s movement. That’s what I think is so beautiful and difficult about dance too. You’re trying to strive for this perfection, but you still want people to get that illusion that your line never ends and that you never stop moving.”

It should probably come as no surprise that Copeland would have trouble conforming to someone else’s idea of what a ballerina should look like; she gave that up a long time ago. At 33, she’s in the midst of the most illuminating pas de deux with pop culture for a classical dancer since Mikhail Baryshnikov went toe-to-toe with Gregory Hines in White Nights. Last June, she was named a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, the first African-American woman to hold that distinction.

Copeland as Swaying Dancer (Dancer in Green); Oscar de la Renta dress, $5,490, 212-288-5810; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard; Hatmaker by Jonathan Howard headpiece corsage, $70, hatmaker.com.au. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

She was also the subject of a documentary, Nelson George’s A Ballerina’s Tale, which chronicled her triumph over depression and body-image issues, as well as her comeback from a career-threatening leg injury in 2012. The story of her rise from living in a single room in a welfare motel with her mother and five siblings to the uppermost reaches of the dance world has become a sort of 21st-century parable: the unlikely ballerina, as Copeland referred to herself in the subtitle of her 2014 memoir, Life in Motion, who may be on her way to becoming the quintessential ballerina of her time.

Degas’s ballet works, which the artist began creating in the 1860s and continued making until the years before his death, in 1917, were infused with a very modern sensibility. Instead of idealized vis -ions of delicate creatures pirouetting onstage, he offered images of young girls congregating, practicing, laboring, dancing, training, and hanging around studios and the backstage areas of the theater. Occasionally, portly men or dark figures appear, directing or otherwise coloring the proceedings. “People call me the painter of dancing girls,” Degas is said to have once told his Paris art dealer Ambroise Vollard, the Larry Gagosian of the day. “It has never occurred to them that my chief interest in dancers lies in rendering movement and painting pretty clothes.” It’s an unsentimental place, Degas’s ballet, and his representation of the dancers is far from sympathetic. But it’s a space where he discovered not only a freedom for himself as an artist but also a kind of beauty that existed behind all the beauty of the performance and in the struggle of his subjects to become something.

Copeland as Degas’s Dancer; Carolina Herrera top, $1,490, skirt, $4,990, 212-249-6552; Hatmaker by Jonathan Howard headpiece, $750, hatmaker.com.au; Mokuba ribbon, $11 per yard, 212-869-8900; Mood Fabrics fabric (worn as a belt), 212-230-5003. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

“Degas’s focus on dance is part of his engagement with depicting the subjects, spaces, rhythms, and sensations of modern life,” says Jodi Hauptman, senior curator in the department of drawings and prints at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where an exhibition that explores Degas’s extensive work in monotype, “Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty,” opens this month. “His vision wanders and focuses, taking note of what usually is overlooked and homing in on what best reflects the conditions of his time.”

In her own way, Copeland is now forcing people to look at ballet through a more contemporary lens. “I see a great affinity between Degas’s dancers and Misty,” says Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. “She has knocked aside a long-standing music-box stereotype of the ballerina and replaced it with a thoroughly modern, multicultural image of presence and power,” Golden says. “Misty reminds us that even the greatest artists are humans living real lives.”

“I definitely feel like I can see myself in that sculpture…Ballet was just the one thing that brought me to life.”

The first blush with ballet for Copeland was famously unromantic. Her mother, Sylvia DelaCerna, was a cheerleader for the Kansas City Chiefs, and her older sister had been a member of the drill team at their middle school in Hawthorne, near their home in San Pedro, California. So, at the age of 13, Copeland decided to try out for the drill squad herself, choreographing her own routine—to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex.” “An odd choice of song,” she says. “I chose ‘I Want Your Sex’ not really knowing anything about what that meant. But that’s how my whole dance career took off.”

Copeland as Degas’s Little Dancer Aged Fourteen; Alexander McQueen dress, $4,655, and corset, $4,525, 212-645-1797; Mood Fabrics ribbon (in hair), 212-230-5003. (photo by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory)

Copeland didn’t just make the team; she was named captain. Her drill coach, Elizabeth Cantine, had a background in classical dance and suggested that Copeland try taking a ballet class at the local Boys & Girls Club. “The class was given on a basketball court, and I was wearing my gym clothes and socks—pretty far from a Degas painting,” Copeland recalls. But she was hooked. Within three months, she was dancing en pointe. “Before dance came into my life, I don’t really remember having any major goals or dreams of wanting to be anything. In the environment I grew up in, we were constantly in survival mode,” Copeland says. “I went to school, and I was really just trying to fit in and not be seen. But ballet was this thing that just felt so innate in me, like I was meant to be doing this.”

To read more go to: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/art-books-music/a14055/misty-copeland-degas-0316/?mag=har&list=nl_hnl_news&src=nl&date=021016

Misty Copeland Debuts as Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” at Metropolitan Opera House

There was palpable emotion and a clear sense of history in the air as Misty Copeland made her New York debut Wednesday in the lead role, a key moment for the popular ballerina who many hope will soon become American Ballet Theater‘s first black principal dancer.

Copeland, 32, currently a soloist at the company, earned loud ovations after her every solo in the dual role of Odette/Odile — one of the most challenging roles in ballet and one considered an essential part of a star ballerina’s repertoire.

The dancer, who has become a leading voice for diversity in her art form and amassed a following inside the dance world and out, had performed the role with ABT on tour in Australia, and as a guest with the Washington Ballet. But Wednesday’s performance was considered huge because it was at ABT’s home, and signaled a clear step on the path to her stated goal: making history as a principal dancer.

This photo provided by American Ballet Theater, Misty Copeland and James Whiteside acknowledge the audience after appearing  in "Swan Lake" at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 24, 2015. It was Copeland's New York debut in the lead role, a key moment for her fans who hope she'll soon be named American Ballet Theater's first black principal dancer. (Gene Schiavone/American Ballet Theater via AP)
 Misty Copeland and James Whiteside acknowledge the audience after appearing in “Swan Lake” at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 24, 2015. (Gene Schiavone/American Ballet Theater via AP)

The fact that this was no simple “Swan Lake” was clear at the curtain calls, with Copeland greeted onstage by two fellow black dancers who’ve made their own history.

First came Lauren Anderson, a retired dancer with Houston Ballet, who became the first black principal there in 1990.  After Anderson, 50, had lifted Copeland off her feet in a hug, out came Raven Wilkinson, who danced with the famed touring company Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in the 1950s and later joined the Dutch National Ballet. Wilkinson, 80, curtseyed to Copeland, who returned the gesture.

Damian Woetzel, director of the Vail International Dance Festival, called the performance “a long overdue milestone in ballet.”

“With elegance and seriousness, Misty made a historic breakthrough,” said Woetzel, a former principal at New York City Ballet. “It was an honor to be there.”

The Missouri-born Copeland’s recent rise to fame includes being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People this year. The magazine put her on the cover and called her “ballet’s breakout star.”  She also came out last year with a best-selling memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” in which she recounted the challenges she faced on the road to her hard-won perch in ballet, and which has been optioned for a movie. She also was the subject of a documentary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

She’s been featured in a popular ad for Under Armour sportswear that shows her leaping and spinning in a studio, while a narrator recounts some of the negative feedback she received as a youngster, when she was told she had the wrong body for ballet and had started too late (she was 13).

Copeland also has appeared as a guest host on the Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance” and was a presenter at this year’s Tony awards.

article by Jocelyn Noveck via news.yahoo.com