Last night I had a chance to see Misty Copeland perform. She’s made history as the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history.
My date and I were astounded by her stage presence and athleticism. We live in a present where dialogue about race (see Misty Copeland’s interview on NPR, “On Broadening ‘Beauty’ And Being Black In Ballet“) is as necessary as ever. Last night I spoke to my roommate, who happens to be black, about the relevance of the fact that Misty Copeland isn’t just “pretty good for being short, black, and female.” Her art transcends any of that, and she is an incredible athlete and dancer — period.
Standing at just about 5’0″, I’m quite short (petite, if someone’s attempting to euphemize), I have plenty of curves, and I’m Asian — therefore I’ve been treated with reactions of incredulity if I speak about being a dancer. Misty’s performance was powerful, and artists like her make me believe that we can break the boundaries of the assumptions of “beauty” in this world. That art doesn’t need to have much to do with “perfection” or someone else’s standard of prettiness.
From the video, Misty Copeland on being an artist:
What makes an artist an artist… is feeling like you can relate to them but at the same time they are otherworldly.
My experience has been that it’s not [just] about seeing a pretty line or an insanely arched foot. I think that most of my favorite dancers artists that I truly respect as artists don’t even have all that.
They’ve taken what they have and made it into this incredible thing. and it makes them a dancer overall and not about their body parts, because that’s so easy to come by. You can take a pretty body anywhere and put them in a position.
What makes an artist an artist, a true dancer, is what they make of all of that on stage and bring to the audience.
You can do anything you want. Even if you’re being told negative things. Stay strong and find motivation. I’m 5’2″. I started [dancing ballet] when I was 13. I’m black. There are so many things, but I’ve made it happen. I’m very lucky to be where I am.