Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Misty Copeland shattering glass ceilings by being the first African American dancer to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s seventy-five year history. With the addition of dance to our studios’ curriculum, we could not be more inspired! This kind of hard work and determination are exactly the qualities we hope you instill in every one of our dance students as well as our music students. Her love of dance and desire to be the best are things that all of us, dancers and non-dancers alike can apply to our own lives. Misty’s unwillingness to let the odds stacked against her write her story for her is truly “principal”.
Copeland, a Kansas City, Mo native raised in a low socioeconomic community outside of Los Angeles, California. Brought up solely mostly by her mother, Copeland did not see her father, Doug Copeland, between the ages of two and twenty-two. Misty’s mother, a former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader, had studied dance and her older sister Erica, who performed in her high school drill team served as her beginning inspiration.
When she was seven, Copeland saw Nadia on Lifetime and suddenly Nadia Comăneci was her new role model. Copeland never studied ballet or gymnastics formally until her teenage years. However, following in the footsteps of her older sister Erica, Copeland became captain of the Dana drill team. Copeland’s natural presence and skill caught the eye of her classically trained Dana drill team coach, Elizabeth Cantine. Not having much, if any, money to spare Misty began taking ballet classes at her local Boys & Girls Club. Where she met Ms. Bradley, a classically trained dance instructor. Bradley invited Copeland to attend class at the small local ballet school, San Pedro Dance Center. However, Copeland initially declined the offer because her mother did not have a car and worked fourteen-hour workdays. Bradley, unable to deny Misty’s raw talent, began providing transportation. Bradley wanted Copeland to focus on dance and offered to house her. She spent the weekdays with the Bradley and weekends at home with her mother, a two-hour bus ride away. By the age of fourteen, just one year after she began her dance career, Copeland won a national ballet contest and won her first solo role. After three months of study Copeland was en pointe.
Then media began to take notice when Copeland was drawing in 2,000 viewers per show as she performed as Clara in the The Nutcracker. At fifteen years old Copeland won first place in the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards. Copeland studied at the San Francisco Ballet School. Of the copious studios she auditioned for that year only the New York City Ballet declined to make her an offer. During the six-week workshop, Copeland was placed in the most advanced classes. She was under full tuition plus expenses scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet summer workshop. At the end of the workshop, she received one of the few offers to continue as a full-time student at the school, but with encouragement from her mother to return home and from Bradley to return to the personal attention the Bradley family offered, she declined with so that should focus on graduating high school and the hope of a subsequent summer with ABT. Soon she began her junior year at San Pedro and her ballet studies with former ABT dancer Diane Lauridsen of Torrance’s South Bay Ballet at the Lauridsen Ballet Center.