Misty Copeland’s dramatic — and triumphant – rise to the top of the ballet world is documented in a new film called a “A Ballerina’s Tale.”On Monday evening, the American Ballet Theatre principal dancer and Under Armour spokeswoman was at the 92nd Street Y in New York to discuss the documentary in a conversation with its director, Nelson George, and TV personality Gayle King.
The movie gives viewers an inside look at the challenges Copeland and other African American dancers have faced and also details the life-changing injury that almost ended the ballerina’s career a few years ago. While George admitted he didn’t know how Copeland’s story would turn out, he got his perfect ending in June, when she became the first African American principal dancer at ABT.
“I’ve spent 15 years proving myself. It’s been a lot of hard work,” Copeland told the crowd, noting that she still encounters people who think she focuses too much on her race. “I don’t think it’s possible to tell my story and talk about my obstacles without talking about the fact that I’m an African American woman,” she said. “It is big deal.”
In a lighter moment during the film, Copeland and her friends spot her huge Under Armour billboard in New York and toast with champagne to celebrate her new stardom.
The dancer is as passionate about advancing young African American ballerinas as she is about her craft. When King referenced Copeland’s Under Armour ” I Will What I Want” campaign and asked, “What is it that you want?,” Copeland responded: “I want there to be many more Mistys to come.”
While Copeland’s story has been highly publicized overthe past few years, many people don’t know about the severity of her shin injury two years ago, when she was starring in “The Firebird.”
“Every dancer experiences injury to some extent. Many dancers get to a point where they are in so much pain, but we deal with these situations and get on stage,” she explained, when asked how she continued performing in the midst of her injury.
A few months later, she had surgery, and many ballet insiders speculated that she would never return to the stage. “I didn’t allow myself to get to that point, believing it could be the end. Maybe I was being naïve or stupid, but I refused to believe that,” Copeland said.