MAY 18: MISTY COPELAND at ABT

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Misty AThis post is about an opportunity to see the astonishing American Ballet Theater (ABT)  principal dancer MISTY COPELAND in her only weekday matinee performance this season in the re-staging of Stravinsky’s FIREBIRD  by ABT Artist-in-Residence (their first) and choreographer ALEXEI RATMANSKY on Wednesday, May 18th at 2pm.

misty dHAVE YOU SEEN HER YET?  Hers is a not-quite so classic American rags to … point shoes story.  The first African American female soloist in American Ballet Theater history and, now, its first African American female principal. Misty Copeland has defied all traditional approaches to the art form.  When she first applied to ballet school she was told, bluntly: “You have the wrong body for ballet.  Your feet, your Achilles tendons, your turn-out, your torso length, and bust are not appropriate for a ballerina.  At 13, you are too old to start in the profession.”  Oh yeah, and she was too short and, uh, not the right color.  Who ever heard of a brown swan?

Yet, she prevailed – overcoming a wildly chaotic childhood, much of it spent living in two rooms in a local motel with her much-married mother and five siblings.  misty cAfter observing a dance class at a local Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, California she was hooked and  soon after joining the class she captured the attention of the teacher who recognized her potential.   At this early, pivotal stage Copeland’s two ballet teachers became her custodial guardians and by 15 she was the subject of a bruising custody battle between them and her mother.

Misty BAt around this same time Copeland started to attract broader attention, won numerous awards and attended summer workshops with ABT and rose through the company’s ranks from there as a member of the corps de ballet, as a soloist and to her current position as a principal dancer.  But she probably came to widespeard, public attention through a commercial she starred in for the athletic garment company Under Armour which showcased not only her talent and athleticism, but also her personality.  The video became a YouTube sensation (see below) with almost 10,000,000 views.  Her cri de couer “I Will What I Am” refers not only to her difficult upbringing but the rigor and rectitude needed to perform at the level she consistently does.  In 2015 she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People and performed on Broadway in On the Town.   She is an enormously popular motivational speaker, has written two autobiographical books and has endorsed a number of products.

On May 18th, she will be the principal dancer in FIREBIRD.

Just as exciting as getting to see Misty Copeland, however, is to see three works  choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky: A Ratmansky World Premiere, Seven Sonatas and Firebird.  A MacArthur “genius” Award winner, Ratmansky is known for re-staging classic ballet works for large companies.  He has worked with the Kirov and the Bolshoi Ballet (where he was the artistic director from 2004-2007) before going to ABT in 2008.  This has been a creative collaboration for the ages – not unlike Balanchine and the New York City Ballet.

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