Today's Articles

People, Locations, Episodes

Fri, 09.10.1982

Misty Copland, Ballerina born

Misty Copland

*Misty Copeland was born on this date in 1982. She is a Black ballet dancer for American Ballet Theatre, author, and entertainer.  She is the third Black soloist and first in the  21st century with ABT, where she has endured the cultural pressure associated with this role.

Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in the San Pedro Los Angeles, California community. She is the youngest of Sylvia DelaCerna's four children from her second marriage to Douglas Copland. Between the ages of three and seven, Copeland lived in Bellflower, California, with her mother and her mother's third husband, Harold Brown, a Santa Fe Railroad sales executive.

The family moved to San Pedro, where Sylvia eventually married her fourth husband, radiologist Robert DelaCerna, and where Misty attended Point Fermin Elementary School. When she was seven, Copeland saw Nadia, and gymnast Nadia Comăneci was her role model. She found her first creative outlet at a Boys & Girls Club woodshop class at eleven.  Copeland never studied ballet or gymnastics formally until her teenage years. However, she did enjoy choreographing flips, and dance moves to Mariah Carey's songs in her youth. Following in the footsteps of her older sister Erica who had starred on the Dana Middle School drill team.

Copeland's natural presence and skill came to the attention of her classically trained Dana drill team coach, Elizabeth Cantine, in San Pedro. Cynthia Bradley, who was a friend of Cantine’s, first introduced her to ballet in classes at her local Boys & Girls Club.  Dela Cerna allowed Copeland to go to the club after school until the workday ended. Bradley, a former working dancer with companies in San Diego, Virginia, and Kentucky taught a free ballet class there once a week. Bradley invited Copeland to attend class at the small local ballet school, San Pedro Dance Center.

Copeland began her ballet studies at the age of 13 at the San Pedro Dance Center when Cynthia Bradley began picking her up from school. During her first year of middle school, the family left Robert. After living with various boyfriends of her mother, the family moved to the Sunset Inn in Gardena, California. Soon, DelaCerna told Copeland that she would have to give up ballet.

However, Bradley wanted Copeland to continue and offered to host her, to which DelaCerna agreed so Misty could pursue her dream. Eventually, they signed a management contract as well as a life-story contract. She spent the weekdays with the Bradleys near the coast and the weekends at home with her mother, a two-hour bus ride away. By the age of fourteen, Copeland was the winner of a national ballet contest and won her first solo role.  She has mentioned Raven Wilkinson as a mentor in her career.

Copeland is considered a prodigy. By age 15, Copeland's mother and ballet teachers, who were serving as her custodial guardians, fought a custody battle over her. Meanwhile, Copeland, who was already an award-winning dancer, was fielding professional offers. The 1998 legal proceedings involved filings for emancipation by Copeland and restraining orders by her mother. Both sides dropped legal proceedings, and Copeland moved home to begin studying under a new teacher who was a former ABT member. In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After two summer workshops with the ABT, she became a member of the Studio Company in 2000, a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2001, and a soloist in 2007. Stylistically, she is considered a classical ballet dancer.

As a soloist since 2007, she has been described as having matured into a more contemporary and sophisticated dancer. While aspiring to be a principal dancer, Copeland has numerous goals as a dancer in terms of leading roles. She aspires to perform lead roles in Giselle, Nikiya, and Gamzatti in La Bayadère, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

In 2011, she was featured in the Season 1 episode of the Hulu web series A Day in the Life. And she unveiled a line of dancewear that she designed. In 2012, The Council of Urban Professionals, the Council’s Breakthrough Leadership Award winner at its 5th Anniversary Leadership Gala, recognized her. By late 2012, she sought publication of two books: a memoir and an illustrated youth book. Around this time, Copeland began achieving solo roles in full-length ballets rather than contemporary works.

Copeland starred in The Firebird, with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. As one of the years, the Los Angeles Times, Laura Bleiberg hailed the performance best dance performances. The Firebird was again performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in June 2012. Within one week of her first and only performance in the role at the Metropolitan Opera, Copeland withdrew from the entire ABT season at the Met due to six stress fractures in her tibia.

She was sidelined for seven months after her October 10 surgery. In 2013, she began working on two books: a memoir under the Simon & Schuster Touchstone Books label and a picture book for the G. P. Putnam's Sons for Young Readers label. In September 2013, Copeland became a spokesperson for Project Plié, a national initiative to broaden the leadership pipeline within ballet. Copeland was interviewed in the November 2013 Vogue Italia.

In 2014 Copeland's autobiography Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina was released. Copeland was named to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition and became a guest judge for the 11th season of So You Think You Can Dance. In May 2014, she performed the lead role of Swanilda in Coppélia at the Metropolitan Opera House. In addition, she performed the roles of a Shade and the Lead D'Jampe in La Bayadère alongside Herman Cornejo and Alina Cojocaru.

Later in the year, she performed the Odette/Odile double role in Swan Lake in September 2014 when the company toured Brisbane, Australia. She would later perform Odette/Odile in New York City and her first Romeo and Juliet. She was a Dance Magazine Awards 2014 honoree. Copeland was selected for the 2015 Time 100.  As a result, she appeared on the cover of Time, making her the first dancer to appear on the cover since Bill T. Jones made the cover in 1994.

To Become a Dancer

New Poem Each Day

Poetry Corner

We gotta put more in our children’s heads than gold teeth, to keep blackness to keep blackness to always keep it from turning around. america’s got all kinds... SURVIVAL MOTION: NOTICE by Melvin E. Brown.
Read More