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Misty Copeland, Ballerina, American Ballet Theater

Source: (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic) / Getty

Congratulations are in order.

One of the most famous African-American ballerinas just made history by becoming the first Black woman to hold the position of principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. Misty Copeland was promoted Tuesday after more than 14 years with the company, the New York Times reports. She spent eight of those years as a soloist, the site points out.

This isn’t Copeland’s first accomplishment this year by any means. The sculpted dancer, known for being vocal about the lack of representation and diversity in the company and in the realm of dancing in general, made the cover of TIME magazine just this year. She is also the subject of a documentary screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Times writes. And in addition to being known for a popular Under Armour ad, she has a base of followers on social media larger than some of Hollywood’s finest.

But it’s Copeland’s precision and elegant fluidity while she dances that compound her popularity. That and her tendency to make history — her new post as principal dancer isn’t the first time her name will be written in books. Just this month, Copeland became the first African-American woman to star in “Swan Lake” with the Ballet Theater, a performance so well-attended that cheers from the crowd reportedly stopped parts of the show.

From the NYT:

Ms. Copeland, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was unusually outspoken about her ambition of becoming the first black woman named a principal dancer by Ballet Theater, one of the nation’s most prestigious companies, which is known for its international roster of stars and for staging full-length classical story ballets.

“My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company,” she wrote in her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” published last year. “That if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”

This put an unusual public spotlight on Ballet Theater as it weighed the kind of personnel decision that, in the rarified world of ballet, is rarely discussed openly. If the company had not promoted Ms. Copeland, it risked being seen as perpetuating the inequalities that have left African-American dancers, particularly women, woefully underrepresented at top ballet companies.

Stella Abrera, Alban Lendorf, and Maria Kochetkova were all named principal dancers along with Copeland.

We send our congratulations to Copeland on her historic accomplishment. We wish our girl the best.



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HER-STORY: Misty Copeland Becomes First Black Principal Dancer At American Ballet Theater  was originally published on