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Misty Copeland

The Unlikely Ballerina

Bria Alston

"Not everyone wants to push themselves to that brink of breaking, but it's what you commit to when you're a professional—the very present reality that you may break instead of bend."

Misty Copeland is an extraordinary dancer. Her talent, hard work and likeable spirit make her unforgettable. She is the Ballerina Prince has called to dance to his music. She is poised and glamorous when she talks to late night talk show host Arsenio Hall. And she has a New York Time's Best Seller, The Unlikely Ballerina. You can imagine my excitement when I discovered I would have a chance to see her up close and personal at one her scheduled events in D.C.

Misty Copeland did not come from the typical background of a classical ballet dancer. She was not exposed to fine arts at an early age. She started ballet lessons at 13 years old, which is extremely late. Misty Copeland took her first ballet class at a boys and girls club on a basketball court. A ballet instructor immediately recognized her exceptional talent and she received a full scholarship to train for the next four years. She was then accepted into the American Ballet Theater. She was the exact opposite of what someone would think of a classical ballerina. She was a curvy black woman and the only one in the company for over a decade.

Riding along with Misty to her speaking engagement was thrilling. I was still excited the next day. It was hard to imagine she had such humble beginnings. She said, "Before ballet and art, I definitely think I was an underdeveloped girl." Her mother was a single parent of six kids, and the focus was more on raising them and surviving, not giving them what they needed to be nurtured as individuals. "When I found ballet I grew in leaps and bounds, and in ways that I never thought I could have if I didn't have ballet in my life" said Misty.

With everything that shaped Misty's world she noted three tips to success in life: belief in yourself, allowing advice and help from others, and sheer hard work and dedication. "Dream big. Don't limit yourself. Don't think of yourself as a shape or color," said Misty. Passionate about bringing ballet to people that otherwise wouldn't be interested, Misty wants to educate people and communities about ballet. In the future Misty wants to stay involved in the arts and dance, continuing to diversify ballet.