Many people believe that dance can not be made into a professional career, Misty Copeland proved them wrong. Misty Copeland is a principal ballet dancer, and she has been dancing since she was a teen. Achieving the American Dream brought Misty where she is today. The American Dream for her was to put a stop to the race borders in ballet, showing others that not everyone in the ballet industry has to have the same skin color. Having an astounding talent of dance comes from a background, having hardships, achievements, and even risks.
Misty Copeland’s childhood was a struggle for her and her family. Most elite ballet dancers begin as young children, Misty started as a teenager (Barnes). Her mother, Sylvia Delacerna, had several marriages and boyfriends, which means the family always ended up packing up and moving in fast conditions. Copeland almost quit ballet as a fifteen year old because her family did not have a car to travel to the ballet studio and back (Barnes).
Misty and her siblings eventually settled into community of San Pedro in California. Misty’s past step-father was emotionally and physically abusive to her and her siblings. Her mother and would refer to them using racial slurs. Growing up poor, Misty did not start ballet until she was noticed by a teacher at the age of 13 (Whitaker). Copeland’s natural ability for dance was recognized by Bradley, a helper at the school, even though age thirteen was a late start for a dance career to begin.
According to “Hundreds Celebrate Misty Copeland’s Homecoming” by Megan Barnes, “San Pedro, Copeland said, ‘is an incredible, small, and warm community that made me the person I am today.’” Misty began a custody battle between the Bradleys and her mother, who was living with Misty’s siblings in a motel. Having a tough background always pushed her to work more.
In addition, Copeland dealt with many hardships as her years in ballet continued. Misty suffered a severe injury after “Firebird” in 2012 (Catton). According to “First African-American Principal Dancer” by Stephanie Lewis, “She said her brown skin kept her from roles traditionally held by white dancers.” Copeland moved back in with her family after the custody battle was declined, and began attending San Pedro High School. While continuing her dance career. She always felt alone and isolated being surrounded by white dancers (Lewis). At the beginning of her ABT, American Ballet Theatre, she faced a vertebral fracture that required her to take some time off from dance, and wearing a brace for the whole day. Copeland continued to pursue her passion and develop her skills through the pain. The article, “Misty Copeland possible promotion notes that “Being African American has pushed me harder than I might have if I did not have that obstacle” (Catton). Years later, Misty had to temporarily stop dancing to heal the stress fractures in her left shin. Misty Copeland, in 2012, had six stress fractures in her tibia and three of them were full breaks through the bone (Whitaker). Working through the hardships helped Misty focus on dance instead of her family problems.
However, none of these hardships prevented Copeland from all the achievements she’s made. She will make history again with debuts as the first black ballerina to dance the lead in several iconic classical ballets (“Memorable”). Copeland created buzz all around the world due to her being one of the few African-American dancers seen performing a classical dance routine. The historic moment of Misty performing many big routines, shows her talent, discipline, and determination and the support (“Memorable”). Performing Sellout shows on grand stages across the country, makes dance companies regret turning her down (Whitaker). Misty, at the age of thirteen, as described as a child prodigy (Lewis). In spring of 2015, she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, which is a rare feature for someone in the dance world. Most ballerinas take more than three years to get en pointe, Misty only took a few months (Whitaker). June 30th of 2015, Copeland scored an achievement which surprised the world over. The article “First African-American Principal Dancer” notes that “Misty Copeland officially became the first African-American woman to be named principal” (Lewis). A principal dancer is the highest level for a dancer to be promoted to. Having many achievements helped Misty become the influence she is today.
Having achieved many goals, Misty was faced with having to take risks. For a dancer to be promoted there is a big decision of whether to promote a dancer who can be a balance of art and commerce (Catton). Although she was challenged by her difference, not only in skin color but also in body type, Misty continued to climb the ranks by her exceptional skill. Her first formal encounter with dance was at her middle schools drill team. While she was made fun of by other kids, she continued to show her skills to her teachers. In 2005, Misty could not take the tension so she confronted Mr. Mckenzie, the head of promoting, to ask if she was going to be promoted (Catton). “My first three of four years in the company, it was the first time it hit me that I was alone,” Copeland said. (Whitaker) Misty moved out of her parents house and in with her dance teacher to accommodate rigorous training to make up the years of training she missed (Barnes). In 2001, she became a member of the ABT’s corps de ballet, the only African American woman in a group of eighty dancers. Editors attempted to lighten Misty’s complexion but, Copeland made sure no skin tone was lightened. Afterall, without these risks, Copeland would not have been groomed into the ballet dancer she is today.
The talent for dance comes from a background filled with hardships, achievements, and risks. The background of someone tells their story more than their present achievements. Dealing with and getting past hardships in careers are very difficult but it worth it in the end to overcome. Giving ballet all her time, achievements piled in for Misty. Risks are the most concerning in a dance career because of the people participating in a dance career. All in all having a career made from a talent of dance brings many challenges with it, for Misty, it was the perfect way to achieve the American Dream.