Misty Copeland

The in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned bal­le­rina and prin­ci­pal dancer of the Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre on ded­i­ca­tion and the art of down­time

Women's Health (UK) - - BEST BODY -


From the mo­ment I first danced, I fell in love. I was such an anx­ious child, but bal­let made me feel safe and free. It’s been a ground­ing con­stant ever since that al­lows me to ex­press my­self. Striv­ing for ex­cel­lence is my re­spon­si­bil­ity as a pro­fes­sional. I wouldn’t have the life I have if I didn’t ex­cel at my craft, so I train daily – either in bal­let classes or re­hearsals. The one ex­cep­tion is in spring, our busiest per­for­mance sea­son, when I’m con­stantly ex­hausted and spend ev­ery Sun­day at home in py­ja­mas. Even when I was on my hon­ey­moon, I did bal­let classes in my ho­tel room and the gym. Luck­ily, my hus­band, Olu [Evans, a lawyer], ac­cepts my love af­fair with dance. We’ve been to­gether for 12 years and he un­der­stands the re­spon­si­bil­ity I have right now, not just as a bal­le­rina, but also as an African Amer­i­can fe­male role model.


The phys­i­cal in­ten­sity of a bal­let dancer’s train­ing re­quires fuel; if you don’t get enough, you can’t per­form prop­erly. Con­sis­tency is as im­por­tant to my diet as it is to my train­ing. For break­fast, I have gra­nola and yo­ghurt with a black cof­fee to help fuel my morn­ing class. I’ll then snack on fruit in my breaks to keep my en­ergy lev­els up, and I re­hy­drate with plenty of wa­ter. At 2pm, I’ll have veg­etable soup or a sand­wich and then graze on a bag of un­salted mixed nuts through­out the af­ter­noon. My big­gest meal of the day is din­ner – I’m a pesc­etar­ian, so it’s nor­mally fish (I love roasted salmon) with plenty of greens. Tak­ing time over my food, catch­ing up with my hus­band and en­joy­ing a glass of prosecco is the per­fect end to a busy day.


Sit­ting in the make-up artist’s chair be­fore a show, I watch as they trans­form me. It must be the way that pro­fes­sional ath­letes feel when they put on their team’s kit. Stage make-up is heav­ier than stan­dard cos­met­ics and, along with all the late nights and trav­el­ling I do, it can take its toll on my skin. So I make sure that ev­ery bit is taken off with Proac­tiv+ lo­tion be­fore I go to bed at night – I’ve used it for 15 years and it’s helped keep my skin clear. Off stage, I’m pretty low-main­te­nance: I’m not in­ter­ested in ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, and I only wear make-up if I’m going to an event. I sweat so much dur­ing the day that wor­ry­ing about what I look like would be a to­tal waste of time.


One les­son I’ve learned is that you can’t change your­self to be more like some­one else. In the clas­si­cal bal­let world, there have tra­di­tion­ally been cer­tain rules about what dancers should look like and where they should come from. As a work­ing-class black girl with curves, I never did fit that mould. But bal­let isn’t about look­ing a cer­tain way; it’s about what you bring to the stage, and how you make peo­ple feel. Like ev­ery­one else, I have bad days. But in­stead of wish­ing I could run away, I go to bed and make a prom­ise that I’ll try again to­mor­row. I tell my­self what I tell the dancers I men­tor: that no bound­ary is im­pos­si­ble to break, and no challenge too tough to over­come.

Strike a pose

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