Misty Copeland is unstoppable this month: In addition to releasing a buzzy new line of super-pretty activewear, designed in collaboration with Under Armour, she also sat down with Refinery29 for an in-depth interview, discussing everything from diversity in ballet to her take on fitness trends like barre classes.
Misty Copeland just designed her very own collection with Under Armour—and it seems like a natural fit. She's been part of the activewear brand since 2014. On May 2, the American Ballet Theatre principal took a break from rehearsing for the upcoming spring season to officially unveil her Misty Copeland Signature Collection in New York City.
Q: "Why do you want to dance?"
A: "Why do you want to LIVE?"
Ahhh, so iconic! If you know those lines (slash, embody them on a daily basis), you're already a fan of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The second line, as spoken by Red Shoes heroine Victoria Page, just perfectly captures the kind of crazy, all-consuming love so many of us feel for this incredible art form.
The Red Shoes turns 70 (!) this year. And Harper's Bazaar decided to celebrate that birthday in an oh-so-glamorous fashion: They decked out three of today's most beautiful ballerinas—American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston and New York City Ballet's Tiler Peck—in gorgeous couture inspired by the film. (Obviously, Louboutins were involved.)
By now, we're used to seeing Misty Copeland embrace roles beyond her original title of prima ballerina. Between being an author, a spokesmodel, a designer, and even taking on the silver screen for a role in Disney's upcoming "Nutcracker" live action movie, Copeland's resume is a plethora of unique titles that prove her versatility both on and off the stage. So it should come as no surprise that the dancing kween would collaborate with Drake in his latest music video "Nice For What."
In case you haven't heard (but you have): American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is one of most famous, and most respected, ballerinas in the world. She's also one of the only black women currently performing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, which means her (inevitably sold-out) performances of the role come with an extra degree of both celebration and scrutiny.
Since she first started dancing the part in 2015, Copeland has struggled with its infamously difficult sequence of 32 fouettés. She's not the first ballerina to do so; the legendary Maya Plisetskaya, for example, opted to skip them completely, subbing a glittering string of piqué and chaîné turns instead (you can see them here, at 8:13). But Copeland's Swan Lake "fouetté fails," some of which have been posted to YouTube, have attracted plenty of jeers on social media. And today, Copeland herself responded to the criticism.
"I had a unique path to dance," says Nardia Boodoo, a luminous, elegant apprentice with The Washington Ballet. She briefly studied ballet as a child, but didn't start serious training until she was 14 years old, attending Baltimore School for the Arts. "I didn't know what a pirouette was," she says. "I would wake up really early to stretch and remember my corrections." But, a focused student, she advanced quickly: Soon she was attending prestigious summer intensives, and she earned a spot in The Washington Ballet Studio Company in 2014. Now, Boodoo is working with her childhood idol, TWB artistic director Julie Kent, and dreams of someday dancing the title role in Giselle.
Boodoo is acutely aware of the power of representation. "It has only recently become OK to have a Misty Copeland," she says. "It's no longer socially acceptable to only have girls who look exactly the same, in any aspect of entertainment. But at the same time it feels like a trend, and I'm not a trend, I'm a human being." Boodoo wants to see genuine diversity, from top to bottom. "You need teachers and directors, ballet masters and répétiteurs," she says. "Diversity on every single level is progress."
As a student at Houston Ballet's Ben Stevenson Academy, American Ballet Theatre corps member Erica Lall saw iconic former Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson on a regular basis. "I think I assumed her position as an African-American principal dancer was a one-time thing," Lall says. "Lauren became a principal in 1990. Why aren't there dozens of brown swan queens now?" In 2013, when Lall came to NYC for the ABT summer intensive, she registered for two weeks at Dance Theatre of Harlem. "I wanted to experience ballet in an environment where I could feel comfortable and proud of my brown skin," she says. "But I didn't have to wait, because I found acceptance at ABT right away."
Lall, who counts her colleague Copeland as a role model, is proud to be the first recipient of the Josephine Premice Fales/ABT Project Plié award, which allowed her to pursue training at ABT. "The award is one of my greatest inspirations to work relentlessly," she says. But, she adds, "the last thing I want to hear is that my talent was secondary to the need to add color." Those who've seen her ebullient, expressive dancing onstage with the company know she needn't worry.