American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is using her talents in a tangible way to give back to colleagues that are facing financial uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The arts and entertainment industries have taken a huge hit, like many others, during the pandemic. With large gatherings shut down for the foreseeable future, dancers across the world can only guess when they’ll be able to perform in front of live audiences again.
Copeland, who made history in 2015 as the ABT’s first-ever African-American principal dancer, is doing her part to help fellow performers maintain their living expenses in the meantime by uniting 32 ballerinas, representing 22 companies from 14 countries, to raise money from a virtual performance of Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Dying Swan, Le Cygne (The Swan), which has since influenced interpretations of classical ballet “Swan Lake.”
“Today, my fellow ballerinas and I launch #SwansForRelief, a fund to support the many dancers in our global community that are no longer able to work due to the coronavirus,” shared Copeland in a social media post on May 6. “32 ballerinas from 14 countries have come together in a virtual performance of Le Cigne.”
In partnership with The Entertainment Industry Foundation, with seed funding provided by K Period Media, the virtual ballet “Swans for Relief” has raised almost half of their $500,000 goal in less than a week.
“Art brings people together to provide a beautiful escape, and ballet in particular is a very unifying experience both on and off the stage, filled with history and imagination,” said Copeland in a press release. “Throughout my career, it has been very important for me to bring more attention and awareness to this art form. The theater thrives on people coming together to experience a performance. Because of the coronavirus, the livelihood and careers of dancers are in jeopardy, and this will continue to have massive effects even after we start to re-open our cities.”
Copeland previously faced a bit of backlash from a 2018 performance of “Swan Lake” in Singapore, after improvising during a minor mishap, and she responded to haters with as much grace as she displays onstage.
““You’re coming to see live theater, it’s not edited!” she said in response to critique. “Anything can happen in those moments. I think that’s what’s so exciting about it as a professional, because you have to figure out how to recover from things that may go wrong in the moment.”