US ballet celebrates first black female principal dancer | Arts | DW | 01.07.2015
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US ballet celebrates first black female principal dancer

Amid racial turmoil in the US, classical ballet is celebrating a rarity: The American Ballet Theatre has named the first female black principal dancer in its 75-year history.

Misty Copeland on Tuesday (30.06.2015) became the first female African-American dancer with the American Ballet Theatre to hold the title of principal dancer.

The 32-year-old has been with the company since 2001, and has been a soloist since 2007. She is the ABT's second-ever black principal, after male dancer Desmond Richardson took the role in 1997.

The announcement was made days after her debut as the lead in "Swan Lake," one of the most important roles in standard ballet repertory.

"This has been my dream since I was 13," Copeland said at an emotional press conference on Tuesday in New York.

"So many young dancers of color stop dancing at an early age because they just don't think there will be a career path for them," added Copeland, who was born in Kansas City and grew up in California. "I hope that will change."

She spoke of the doubts she'd had over the years as to whether an African-American woman could attain top success in the field of classical ballet, a discipline known for putting huge emphasis on appearance. "At the same time it made me so hungry to push through to carry the next generation," said Copeland.

Copeland has been credited with single-handedly drawing more diverse audiences to ballet. She also achieved fame beyond the ballet stage - a rare achievement for a classical dancer.

She was featured on the cover of "Time" magazine as one of the most influential figures of 2015. And her memoir, entitled "Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina," became a bestseller.

Copeland has also featured in a music video with Prince and an ad campaign for Under Armour sportswear.

"In the racially underrepresented world of ballet, Misty has already had a historic impact," said Damian Woetzel, former principal dancer for New York City Ballet and current director of the Vail International Dance Festival.

kbm/rf (AP, Reuters)

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