NPR logo
Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer At American Ballet Theatre
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/418924576/418924577" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer At American Ballet Theatre

Dance

Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer At American Ballet Theatre

Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer At American Ballet Theatre
  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/418924576/418924577" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Misty Copeland has been promoted to top dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in New York. She is the first African-American female principal dancer in the company's history.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And this means an extra second of celebration today for ballerina Misty Copeland. She was promoted to principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre - the first African-American to hold that position. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has more.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: The 32-year-old ballerina has inspired huge, diverse crowds to see her perform at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Opera House, as recently as last week, in "Swan Lake." Misty Copeland has been with the American Ballet Theatre, or ABT, for nearly 15 years. She was a soloist, but as she told NPR last year, she's always wanted to be a principal dancer, the top prize in a ballet company.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MISTY COPELAND: Before I knew that there'd never been a black woman, that was always my goal. I wanted to dance Odette-Odile and Kitri in "Don Quixote" and Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty." Knowing that it's never been done before I think makes me fight even harder.

DEL BARCO: Fight even harder, she said because of some of the challenges she faced. First, as one of six children with a struggling single mother. Copeland told NPR, when she first started ballet lessons at 13, they were living in a motel. When Copeland started dancing professionally, she found that being biracial - half black, half white - became an issue.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

COPELAND: I was the one brown girl up there, and some people just thought that I kind of ruined the aesthetic of the group.

DEL BARCO: As she moved up the ranks at the ABT, Copeland publicly called out the racism of some dance critics who questioned her body type.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

COPELAND: Saying that, you know, African-Americans are too muscular or just aren't lean enough. When people meet me in person, they're usually surprised at how petite I am.

DEL BARCO: Copeland has been active in promoting herself and ballet for all. She wrote a best-selling memoir and a popular children's book. She made the cover of Time magazine and was featured on TV's "60 Minutes." She's the subject of a new documentary and has more than a half-a-million Instagram followers. A commercial she did for Under Armour sportswear went viral. Copeland performed in concert with Prince and she even judged contestants on a TV dance competition. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.