Behind the Curtain of Ballet Icon Misty Copeland’s Career

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Which she has with books, a film role, Broadway, brand endorsements and even the title of one of the most influential people in the world—though none of that was on her initial to-do list. Since the beginning of ballet and learning this technique, my goal has been to be a part of American Ballet Theatre. To live and train in New York City. Gelsey Kirkl  Mikhail Baryshnikov and Paloma HerreraShe agreed. Bradley was her first partner in life and she lived with him for the rest of the week. It is my intention to concentrate on the ballet. 

Copeland applied for emancipation. A public struggle ensued between her mother and the Bradleys after she filed. Sylvia DelaCerna, over the budding ballerina ensued (Copeland ultimately withdrew her petition and moved back in with her mother). But, by 18, her dream came true: Copeland became a member of American Ballet Theatre’s corps de ballet—just five years after she took that first ballet class. After overcoming injury and struggles with overeating and body image, she was named a soloist in 2007 and, nearly a decade later, she finally took her place a principal dancer.

She described the moment as “surreal” and “a long road.” It had been fifteen years since I joined the company. This is a rare feat in dance companies. Either you are given the chance early in your career or not. If you stay where you are, it will be difficult to accept and embrace that you have been offered this opportunity. 

She had already been performing lead roles, an achievement she tried to focus on whether or not she ever reached that next level. She said, “This was the point in my art, and it was something that I could accept.” The title award was the cherry on top. But it was really about the significance of the Black ballet community and the fact that this was an important milestone for us all.