Misty Copeland, Soloist with American Ballet Theatre In the past year, Misty Copeland has become a household name. Walk around Soho and you'll see her on a billboard. Turn on the TV and might catch her Under Armour commercial. Open up last week's New Yorker and you'll see a full-length feature about her life. She's kind of everywhere. She has the resume of a celebrity, and the poise of a ballerina.
Despite her accomplishments, there are still a few firsts that Misty is waiting to check off her list. Premiering Odette/Odile during the ABT's Australian tour was one. Now back in New York City, NYC Dance Project caught up with Misty and she gave us the inside scoop on her performances and the tour. The night before the show we ran through everything in Swan Lake, and it was probably the worst rehearsal that Alex Hammoudi and I had throughout the entire process of putting it together. Kevin was very calm about it. He kept saying,"Maybe you guys shouldn't do anymore. I think you guys are so ready for this, you've rehearsed so much." But we insisted on running though everything. It just wasn't working. So we left the night like, "Oh my god, that rehearsal was so bad." I went home to my hotel room, which was a little apartment so I could cook, which is something I really enjoy doing. Cooking definitely keeps my mind at ease. When I woke up in the morning I felt ready to finally do it. During the show, I wasn't walking into something where I didn't know what to expect. Usually each act of tech is given to a different Principal, but I was able to do a full run through the day after we flew. It was kind of like, if I can get off a plane, jet lagged and do the whole show - then I can do this. The shocking part was how much I enjoyed performing and how relaxed and calm I was. I was expecting people to say "Good first time! You've got a lot of work to do!" I mean, I think everyone was kind of in shock, like - you did it! You did it well. And the artistry was there, and you didn't struggle though anything. It's still setting in. The greatest thing that I continued to hear was that it didn't look like my first time doing Swan Lake. The timing couldn't be more right in my career. I don't even know if a year ago I would have been capable of handling a situation like this and prepared to do a ballet like Swan Lake. I can do anything. After dancing Swan Lake you feel like you can conquer the world. I feel like a different dancer now. I'm more in control of my craft. I am so grateful that Kevin has continued to have faith in me that I could become this artist that I think he's always dreamt of me becoming. And all I can do is just be grateful and thankful that he's waited this long. These opportunities don't normally come for someone at this age. I think that it says a lot about the belief that Kevin has always had in me. It's proof that there's a bigger picture. To get an opportunity to dance Swan Lake says a lot about the path that he sees for your career. So, I'm hopeful that's why I'm getting these roles. When I'm in the midst of doing what I do, dancing and performing, if I step back and think about everything or the magnitude of what it is, I think I could completely lose my head. I'd get overwhelmed and think "this is a lot on me." So I try not to. Dancers are athletes, ballet is not a sport. A sport is a competitive thing where you have a way of keeping score and it's very black and white. An art form isn't that. Of course there are competitions, but I think it's so insanely difficult to fairly judge a dancer in a competition. It's about the panel and their take, opinion and perspective. It is so much more than a sport. Susan Jaffe constantly told me how powerful other people's words can be and how you can't let them define you. You have to really be able to sift through things people are saying. That could mean anything: critics, people around you, or the ballet mistress in front. Take what you think is going to help you and don't let it beat you down.
Interview by Cory Stieg
Misty is dancing with partner, Alexandre Hammoudi, Soloist with American Ballet Theatre.