Tag: “Swan Lake”

It’s Official: Misty Copeland Becomes 1st Black Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater

Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland (Photo via livetalksla.com)
Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland (Photo via livetalksla.org)

One of today’s most famous ballerinas just made history by becoming the first African-American woman to hold the position of principal dancer at the American Ballet TheaterMisty Copeland was promoted Tuesday after more than 14 years with the company, the New York Times reports. She spent eight of those years as a soloist, the Times points out.

Copeland, known for being vocal about the lack of representation and diversity in the company and in the realm of dancing in general, made the cover of TIME magazine just this year. She is also the subject of a documentary screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Times writes.  In addition to being known for a popular Under Armour ad, she has a base of followers on social media larger than some of Hollywood’s finest.

But it’s Copeland’s precision and elegant fluidity while she dances that compound her popularity. That and her tendency to make history — her new post as principal dancer isn’t the first time her name will be written in books. Just this month, Copeland became the first African-American woman to star in “Swan Lake” with the Ballet Theater, a performance so well-attended that cheers from the crowd reportedly stopped parts of the show.

From the NYT:

Ms. Copeland, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was unusually outspoken about her ambition of becoming the first black woman named a principal dancer by Ballet Theater, one of the nation’s most prestigious companies, which is known for its international roster of stars and for staging full-length classical story ballets.

“My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company,” she wrote in her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” published last year. “That if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”

This put an unusual public spotlight on Ballet Theater as it weighed the kind of personnel decision that, in the rarified world of ballet, is rarely discussed openly. If the company had not promoted Ms. Copeland, it risked being seen as perpetuating the inequalities that have left African-American dancers, particularly women, woefully underrepresented at top ballet companies.

Stella Abrera, Alban Lendorf, and Maria Kochetkova were all named principal dancers along with Copeland.

article by Christina Coleman via newsone.com

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

Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack to Dance “Swan Lake” at DC’s Kennedy Center on April 9

Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland (Photo: hellogiggles.com)
Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland (Photo: hellogiggles.com)

History will be made at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater on the evening of Thursday, April 9, when Misty Copeland, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, joins Brooklyn Mack of the Washington Ballet in a performance of Swan LakeCopeland and Mack, both African American, will go where no dancers of color have gone before. They will become the first African Americans to dance the leading roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried respectively in the traditional ballet.

Ballet dancer Brooklyn Mack (Photo:
Ballet dancer Brooklyn Mack (Photo: ballet.co.uk)

There should be little doubt that Copeland—a rising star at the American Ballet Theater who gained notoriety after appearing in a widely noticed Under Armour advertising campaign—and Mack—trained at Washington’s Kirov Academy of Ballet and Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet—have demonstrated ample talent on ballet stages around the world. Their appearance as leads in Swan Lake would be seen merely as appropriate next steps in their expanding careers if they were white.

Their success should remind all Washingtonians of the pioneering role that D.C. has played in promoting African-American dance. As dance historian Tamara Brown has noted, the juxtaposition of academic training at Howard University and the numerous popular theaters along U Street nurtured a creative center for African-American dance during much of the 20th century. Howard University’s Maryrose Reeves Allen stood at the heart of this energetic scene.

Allen, who was born in Louisville, Ky., in 1899, earned her college degree at the Sargent School in Massachusetts before teaching summer school at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, then the country’s leading center for the study of African dance. She joined the Howard faculty in 1925 as the director of a new physical education program for women.

Allen’s arrival coincided with the heyday of the Howard University Players under the leadership of T. Montgomery Gregory and Alain Locke. Two years after coming to the Howard campus, Allen established a group that would grow to become the Howard University Dance Ensemble, one of the era’s most inspired African-American companies.

Allen’s dancers penetrated the world of white concert dance by the 1950s, performing with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington and on many integrated stages in New York City. Her students—including Debbie Allen, Chuck Davis, Melvin Deal, Ulysses Dove and George Faison—populated major classical and modern dance companies throughout the U.S., from Broadway stages to Hollywood studios. They nurtured a lively dance scene in Washington that spawned the Capitol Ballet and professional companies associated with the Black Arts Movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

Maryrose Reeves Allen remained active in the Howard University and dance communities after her retirement in 1967. In 1991, one year before Allen’s death, Howard became the first historically black university to offer a degree in dance through its Department of Theatre Arts. Her spirit will be very much present at the Kennedy Center as Copeland and Mack step center stage.

article by Blair Ruble via theroot.com