A New Swan on the National Stage

Misty Copeland, the first African American soloist at American Ballet Theatre in more than 20 years, has yet to appear as Odette/Odile on U.S. soil. That changes this month: On April 9 and 12, Copeland will take center stage in The Washington Ballet’s first-ever full-length production of Swan Lake.

Her Prince Siegfried will be TWB’s Brooklyn Mack—a rare partnership of two artists of color, performing classical roles historically portrayed by white dancers. Dance Spirit caught up with Copeland, Mack and TWB’s director, Septime Webre, to talk about the performances.

Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack in Swan Lake (photo by Theo Kossenas, courtesy The Washington Ballet)

Swan Lake is regularly presented by some of the best companies in the world—I wanted to make our performance special. One of the last bastions of segregation in America is in ballet casting. I’m aware of the historical significance of Misty in the role, especially dancing with Brooklyn. My goal is to present artists who bring a new dimension to the ballet, and I hope that doing so will make audiences rethink what a ballerina and a prince should look like.” —Septime Webre

“I’m excited to give today’s youth a new image of who can be cast as the Swan Queen. I prefer dancing Odile—she’s not someone I naturally saw myself as. But that’s the beauty of acting in ballet. You get to become characters that aren’t innately part of you. I’m constantly switching partners at ABT, so dancing with Brooklyn isn’t too much of a departure from my norm. His power is effortless, and though he performs with a ton of masculinity, he’s also a really caring, nurturing and sensitive partner.” —Misty Copeland

“I’m honored and humbled to be a part of this. It’s always been part of my mission to inspire others, and I hope this performance reassures kids that they can do anything—we all can do anything, regardless of our color or our social status. Misty is a joy to work with. She’s super down-to-earth and she is, of course, tremendously talented. She’s technically inspiring, and we have great chemistry.” —Brooklyn Mack

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