The Misty Effect: Precious Adams, First Artist, English National Ballet

Precious Adams (photo by Laurent Liotardo, courtesy English National Ballet)

The answer to Canton, MI, native Precious Adams' ballet dreams lay abroad. Adams studied at the National Ballet School of Canada (relatively near her home in Michigan), and eventually her desire to seek out the best possible training led her even further afield, to the Monte Carlo Ballet's Princess Grace Academy, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

When Adams went to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to dance at the 2007 Dance Open master classes, the experience was a little bit of a shock. Despite seeing few other dancers of color throughout her training, in Russia, Adams felt like her race was really visible. "It was the first time I felt like, 'Oh, I'm black and maybe that might not be a good thing in this profession,' " she says. "Despite that realization, I was even more determined to pursue my dreams."

Adams won the Prix de Lausanne in 2014, and an offer from English National Ballet followed. Her ultra-refined classical technique has helped her dance everything from La Sylphide to William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated to Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring. And, thanks in part to Copeland, Adams believes that assumptions about black women and black dancers are starting to change. "After all," she says, "when people are excluded, talent is wasted."

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