By Nicosia Smith
Her glorious stresses spilling over her shoulder, did not hide that signature smile.
Standing behind a packed seating area on the Fourth Floor at the Barnes and Nobel Event, I listen.
American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) first black principal dancer, was enthralling all with her eloquence. It is an astronomical achievement for Copeland, who accomplished what many before her did not. And even she admitted, during conversation with Damaris Lewis, her struggles. ‘It’s hard to accept that people can judge you base on something you have no control over’, Copeland said, speaking on her skin color.
Nevertheless she stressed, ‘I think it is important for me to represent’.
One cannot deny that ballet companies are very white. It took 75 years for ABT, one of three major companies in America, to make that ‘principal move.
It was a joy to see the numerous kids and parents in the audience. Their smiles and giggles of excitement could not be hid. As they held ‘Firebird’ dolls and books. Neither did they shy away from the microphone, asking a barrage of questions.
One wanted to know when she will take the stage again. Copeland in her signature “Hi,” before every response explain, ‘It’s so hard…I needed a year off’. Next month, she is set to perform ‘Giselle’, in Mascat, Oman. And the follow up, how does she remain motivated to continue dancing?
“I love what I do, I love going on stage and performing.”
A Debbie Allen Dance Academy dancer enquired when she met the iconic Allen. At around 14-years-old, Copeland recall, she worked with Allen in the Chocolate Nutcracker playing Clare, while Allen played Oz. That was in her second year as a classical dancer. Allen is a pioneer in the field of contemporary dance.
On March 20, I attended the Tiger Woods signing, and Copeland’s the next day. At the first, scalpers were trying to buy books, wired security guards blocked the Fourth Floor entrance, suits milled around with strict wrist band enforcement.
No such thing at Copeland’s signing, even at 7p.m. – opening time, I could still purchase a book and get a wrist band. What a difference a day makes.
And then it was time.
- “Hi Misty,” I said, and there was that signature smile saying with a raspy slightly hoarse voice, “Hi.”
Signed “Ballerina Body,” by Misty Copeland in hand, I walked off the stage with a satisfied feeling.