One is American Ballet Theatre's first African American female principal; the other is the United States' first African American president. Obviously, Misty Copeland and Barack Obama are incredible role models. But it turns out these two leaders have even more in common than you might think. (And no, we're not just talking about the fact that Obama also has pretty impressive dance skills...although, fair point.)
Recently, Time magazine—which named Copeland and Obama two of its Most Influential People in 2015—had the pair sit down for a candid interview with reporter Maya Rhodan. As Rhodan pointed out, both were born into multiracial families, both were raised by single mothers and both have risen to the top of their respective fields. And that was the jumping-off point for a convo that ranged from how race has affected their careers to body issues in the ballet world to basketball star Steph Curry.
It wasn't all super-serious! (screenshot from Time.com)
Unsurprisingly, the eternally poised Copeland held her own with the leader of the free world—and Obama, eloquent as usual, showed off a pretty decent knowledge of the ballet scene, too. (He's probably picked up a few pointers from Copeland since appointing her to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition back in 2014.) Here are a couple of dance-related highlights from their discussion:
Barack Obama: "You know, as the father of two daughters, one of the things I’m always looking for are strong women who are out there who are breaking barriers and doing great stuff. And Misty’s a great example of that. Somebody who has entered a field that’s very competitive, where the assumptions are that she may not belong. And through sheer force of will and determination and incredible talent and hard work she was able to arrive at the pinnacle of her field."
Misty Copeland: "I think that having a platform and having a voice to be seen by people beyond the classical ballet world has really been my power...It’s allowed me to say, it’s okay to have a healthy athletic body. We are fully capable of doing everything that the person who doesn’t have an extremely athletic body, that is more thin. We’re fully capable of doing exactly the same thing....And it’s I think forcing a lot of these top tier companies to address the lack of diversity and diversifying the bodies that we’re seeing in classical ballet."
Watch the whole interview here:
It's a good week to be Misty Copeland.
Last Thursday, the gorgeous American Ballet Theatre soloist made history—and made a lot of ballet fans very happy—when she performed as Odette/Odile for the first time in the U.S. (She danced this round with The Washington Ballet, but will also perform the role with ABT at NYC's Metropolitan Opera House this spring.)
Today comes the news that Copeland has been named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2015. In fact, she was one of the five members of that 100-person list to earn a COVER. How perfect is that?
Really, really perfect.
It gets even perfect-er: Copeland's story for Time Magazine was written by Nadia Comaneci, the legendary gymnast with five Olypmic gold medals to her name. Comaneci was famous for her beautifully dancer-like presence, and the reason she took on Copeland's profile is that a movie about her gymnastic career is what first inspired Copeland "to see the joy in movement." So lovely.
There are two videos accompanying the profile, both packed with awesome footage of Copeland (and ABT's Gabe Stone Shayer—hi, Gabe!) in action. Take a look below.
Here's a fun little Friday video for you: Time magazine, inspired by the hullaballoo over Miley Cyrus' twerktastrophe at the VMAs, has put together a history of "forbidden" dances. Forget grinding: In the late nineteenth century, even the waltz was considered risqué, because its "closed hold" meant partners were—gasp!—actually touching each other. Like, for extended periods of time.
The video is a pretty nifty look at how what's considered acceptable public behavior changes over time. The one thing that never changes, though, is that if you give a "scandalous" dance a few decades to cool off, it'll probably become totally standard. You know how your mom did the twist at your cousin's wedding? In the '60s, it was definitely not considered mom, or wedding, appropriate. (Not sure what that means about what moms will be doing at weddings 50 years from now...)
Take a look—and happy Friday!