She’s got 1,590,000 Google hits. Hers is the ballet dancer name on everyone’s lips. Her athleticism and beauty in the ad for Under Armour this past summer created a sensation that quickly went viral. She’s tiny for a ballet dancer, at five-foot-two. She has curves. She didn’t take her first ballet class until she was thirteen. No matter — at thirty-two, she just performed her first Odette/Odile lead role in American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake, while the company was on tour in Australia. Her memoir published last spring, chronicling her struggles against the odds to arrive at the place she is now, is a bestseller. She is the preeminent role model for young African-American girls yearning to be ballet dancers. She rose from humble circumstances, one of six kids, raised by a single mother with struggles of her own. She is one of the very few African-American soloists in the trade, the only one currently dancing in the ultra-prestigious American Ballet Theatre.
Misty Copeland is a whole lot of wonderful.
First, the ad for Under Armour, in case you haven’t seen it.
The rejection letter the voice-over reads in this commercial is fictional, but it certainly does represent the odds Copeland had to work against, odds for many an aspiring ballet dancer, or gymnast, or pianist, or violinist, or any teenager (or adult, or middle-aged person, or retired person), who believes in a dream with all her heart. Here it is:
Thank you for your application to our ballet academy. Unfortunately you have not been accepted. You lack the right feet, Achilles tendons, turnout, torso length and bust. You have the wrong body for ballet. And at 13, you are too old to be considered.
Oh, don’t you love stories of people who simply ignore comments like that, lower their heads and work, push, remain true to their vision, ultimately finding well-earned success? Me too.
There are dozens of articles out there that chronicle Misty Copeland’s story well, such as this New Yorker article about her: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/unlikely-ballerina. You can also give her memoir a read: http://www.amazon.com/Life-Motion-An-Unlikely-Ballerina/dp/1476737983
Anaheim Ballet’s wonderful series of interviewing dancers brought us this clip featuring Misty Copeland. While mainstream viewers may prefer the briefer, eye-candy of the Under Armour commercial (and how I LOVE getting the chance to use “mainstream viewers” and “ballet dancer” in the same sentence!), this clip gives us Copeland’s philosophy, her heartfelt thoughts. And some gorgeous dance, to boot.