The prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s first black soloist in twenty years will take the stage this week, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg in the unlikely, groundbreaking life of ballerina Misty Copeland.
The 30-year-old beauty hits the stage in “Le Corsaire” at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York on Tuesday, but her star turn is just one of a string of firsts and a fascinating life story she brings along with her.
For starters, Copeland, a native of San Pedro, California, grew up in extreme poverty. She didn’t even know what ballet was when she was spotted by an instructor at her local Boys and Girls Club at 13.
Which brings up another unlikely fact in Copeland’s life — she didn’t even begin training in ballet until her early teen years.
“I had no introduction to the arts in any way, definitely not the fine arts,” Copeland told the New York Post of her childhood, part of which was spent living out of a motel room with her mother.
“Survival was our No. 1 priority, not extracurriculars, or a career,” she said. “These were not things we thought about.”
She was destined, however, to think a lot about those things. In fact, she would soon be thinking of nothing but.
A ballet instructor named Cynthia Bradley saw Copeland’s potential and told her, “You are the most gifted dancer I’ve ever seen and this could be a path to have a career.”
And that’s what it became. But at 13, Copeland was at a major disadvantage. Whereas most ballerinas start at the age of 5, with money and eager parents backing them. Copeland was not so lucky.
In just a few years, the young phenom had to cram in nearly two decades worth of training. That is, if she wanted to compete among the best.
In addition to her age and the color of her skin, Copeland stood apart from her peers as she quickly rose in the ranks of the world’s best dancers because of her physique. Where most ballerinas are extremely slim, Copeland is curvaceous…
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