Play Misty for me

Bal­let leg­end Misty Copeland has made his­tory on the stage and is now warm­ing up for her Hol­ly­wood debut.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Cotents - In­ter­view by SASKIA TILLERS

Be­fore you be­gan bal­let at 13, we’ve heard you had a thing for mak­ing up dance rou­tines to Mariah Carey songs in your bed­room. So which was your favourite? It’s true. There’s a song called ‘Look­ing In’. It’s funny look­ing back on that song be­cause it’s very deep. Mariah Carey did a great job writ­ing amaz­ing lyrics to re­ally make you feel things. You had a spe­cial friend­ship with Prince. What’s your favourite mem­ory of him? Oh, so many. I felt we were very sim­i­lar in the way that we were con­fi­dent in who we were, but at the same time both kind of in­tro­verts who don’t re­ally be­come ev­ery­thing we can be un­til we are on the stage do­ing what we love. The first time I per­formed with him, it was maybe 2010 – at this point I’d only known him as my friend and had never seen him per­form. See­ing him trans­form into this mag­i­cal, myth­i­cal crea­ture, I was like “Oh, that’s why he’s Prince!” You made his­tory when you be­came the first African-amer­i­can fe­male prin­ci­pal dancer with the Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre. Were you sur­prised by the at­ten­tion? Grow­ing up as a bi-racial woman, be­ing raised with my five sib­lings by my bi-racial mother, it was at the fore­front of con­ver­sa­tions that we had at home. I had an aware­ness of how the world would see me. En­ter­ing the bal­let world, I felt like I had a leg up on a lot of dancers who haven’t em­braced that they’re not like ev­ery­one else. I still ex­pe­ri­ence dis­crim­i­na­tion; I don’t think there’s a black per­son in the world, es­pe­cially in Amer­ica, who say that they don’t. [But] it’s some­thing that’s made me stronger. You ar­gue that dancers shouldn’t suc­cumb to body-im­age pres­sures… No-one wants to see the same-look­ing per­son lined up one af­ter an­other. That’s some­thing I am con­stantly try­ing to tell young peo­ple who I in­ter­act with – be­ing you is so much more spe­cial and au­then­tic. In 2015, you ap­peared on the cover of Time magazine as one of its 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world. Who’s been a big in­flu­ence to you? Raven Wilkin­son, an African-amer­i­can bal­le­rina who danced for the Bal­let Russe [de Monte Carlo] in the 1950s. I first saw her in a doc­u­men­tary and I felt emo­tions that were so vis­ceral. It was the first time that I felt this nat­u­ral em­pow­er­ment. I want to share sto­ries like hers, and of other African-amer­i­can bal­leri­nas who don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the plat­form and op­por­tu­ni­ties I have. In your new film The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, you worked with some mas­sive names, in­clud­ing Keira Knight­ley and Mor­gan Free­man. What was your big­gest pinch-me mo­ment? I think just the be­gin­ning, step­ping onto the set. Ev­ery­one was so in­cred­i­bly sweet. Keira was there and it was amaz­ing to have time with her, just to be. We’re all nor­mal peo­ple, which I kind of had to keep re­mind­ing my­self. It’s like when young peo­ple meet me [and are starstruck]. I don’t want them to feel like I’m above them. We’re all hu­man be­ings.

CEN­TRE (from top) STAGE Bal­le­rina Misty Copeland per­form­ing with her friend Prince in New York in 2011; Copeland (cen­tre) with Sergei Pol­unin in The Nutcracker And The Four Realms.

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