Reading about the unlikely ballerina, Misty Copeland

Like so many others who aren’t esconced in the world of ballet, I was first introduced to Misty Copeland when her Under Armour commercial aired. I was always fascinated with ballet, and I was mesmerized by Misty’s elegance and strength in that video. I didn’t know anything else about her, but a quick Google search as a result of seeing that video made it clear that she was a force to be reckoned with in the world of ballet.

718ZgTRTBzLFast forward a few months, to when I saw an ad in the city advertising Misty’s role in Swan Lake as Odette/Odile. I was obsessed with getting tickets, but they quickly sold out.

So when I found myself getting more and more interested in learning about ballet, one of the first books I bought was her memoir, Life In Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.

You probably know the headlines of Misty’s life: that she was one of only three black ballerinas ever promoted to soloist in the American Ballet Theatre, and that as of June 30 of this year, the first black ballerina to be promoted to principal, a huge achievement that has made her a star.

But the memoir gives readers a in-depth look at the inner life of this larger-than-life ballet rock star, to her anxiety-filled childhood, her relationships with her five brothers and sisters, the many men who played the role of father in her life, and the people who discovered that at 13, she was a ballet prodigy. Seriously—she stood en pointe after only eight weeks in training. It takes most dancers years, and they have to start at, like, 3 years old.

The most notable thing about this book is Misty’s voice. She has faced unimaginable adversity in her life. When she was a child, her mother would pick up and move her large family every few years, always running away from a bad marriage or a bad boyfriend. They moved from husband’s house to husband’s house, finally settling down into a shabby motel when Misty was a teenager.

When she was 13-15, she lived with the director of her ballet school, because her mother wanted her to stop ballet, and Misty refused. But at 15, when Misty filed for emancipation, her mother took Misty’s guardians to court and the little girl who loved to dance and hated attention was on display for the world to know her secrets.

And that’s not even touching upon the difficulties Misty faced as one of the only African American members of one of the world’s most prestigious dance companies, as well as her many painful injuries. Throughout the book, I read about Misty’s life in her own voice, and it’s always graceful, loving, compassionate, and forgiving. Even though so many people failed her, insulted her, and rejected her, she never shows an ounce of the bitterness I know I probably would have had in her situation. Misty came off as truly indomitable.


And she achieved her dream, as a principal dancer with ABT. I hope that one day soon I’ll be able to go to a ballet starring Misty. I live in the suburbs of New York, after all. 🙂

Check out her memoir even if you’re not at all interested in ballet, because you’ll probably be totally in love with Misty Copeland by the end.

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