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Misty Copeland is the first African-American performer to be appointed as a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre.
Copeland was born on Sept. 10, 1982, in Kansas City, Mo. She was raised in the California cities of Gardena and San Pedro.
Copeland’s childhood involved a lot of moving around. At 13, her family moved into a single hotel room, where she slept on the floor. She calls it “the hardest time in my childhood.”
While most professional ballet dancers get their start before age 5, Copeland didn’t begin lessons (at a Boys and Girls Club) until she was 13.
At 15, Copeland won a first place Music Center Spotlight Award, which recognizes talented high school students across a variety of fields.
Copeland studied dance at the lauded Lauridsen Ballet Center in Torrance, Calif.
In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California.
Copeland, once powerfully shy and unable to speak in front of groups, said that ballet gave her the confidence to speak up.
Copeland faced racism after making it to the prestigious ranks of the American Ballet Theatre, constantly being told she didn’t have the body or talent for ballet.
After two summer workshops with the American Ballet Theatre, she became a member of its Studio Company in 2000 and its corps de ballet in 2001. Later becoming an American Ballet Theatre soloist in 2007.
Copeland was awarded the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts in 2008. The fellowship funds dancer studies with teachers outside of the American Ballet Theatre.
She is an advocate for diversity in ballet.
Copeland released two books in 2014. The first was the memoir, “Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.” The second was a picture book aimed at young children titled “Firebird.”
A documentary on Copeland’s career, “A Ballerina’s Tale,” from director Nelson George debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival.
She played the role of Ivy in the Broadway play “On the Town.” The role required her to dance, act and sing.
She has endorsed products and companies such as T-Mobile, Dr Pepper, Seiko and Under Armour.
In 2015, she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, appearing on its cover.
In January 2016, Copeland reprised the role of Princess Florine in “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Kennedy Center, choreographed by Ratmansky.
Copeland’s spring 2016 schedule also includes leads in the American Ballet Theatre’s productions of “The Firebird,” “La Fille Mal Gardee,” “Le Corsaire,” “The Golden Cockerel,” “Swan Lake” and “Romeo and Juliet.”