Misty Copeland returns to Segerstrom Center for the Arts, dancing Clara the Princess in American Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker” for three performances.
“It’s like a homecoming for me.” Copeland went on to say, “You know leaving Southern California and joining American Ballet Theatre moving to New York when I was like 18 years old, every opportunity I got to come back home and perform in Orange County and have my family and my school there watching I think it’s definitely extremely comforting. Of any place that we travel throughout the world, it’s nice to come back home and be on that stage that feels like home to me now.”
I met Misty while gathering interviews for the PBS SoCal documentary Henry Segerstrom: Imagining the Future. The whole crew found themselves a bit star struck and for good reason.
Even outside the world of ballet, the name Misty Copeland brings a nod of recognition. The first African- American Principal Dancer for American Ballet Theater, the subject of a new book by photographer Gregg Delman, the gal who recently married Olu Evans… the cousin of Taye Diggs (in Laguna Beach no less), Misty seems to be everywhere. She even found her way into PBS kid’s favorite “Peg + Cat” in an episode called “The Dance Problem.” Once the spotlight found her, it could not turn away. Hers is a true happily ever after.
As we “ooh and aah” at this beautiful, talented, charming woman, it’s important to take a moment to look at the first few chapters of this tale and realize the fairy godmothers to this Cinderella included live performance. For Misty, the chance to actually witness her dreams on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts made all the difference.
“My memories were that I first saw American ballet theater perform there quite a bit and ABT was the one company that I was really introduced to as a student as kind of where my future where we hoped it would be. And the Segerstrom Center was the place to go to see them so I mean, it’s really incredible to have come from a community in Southern California where that was so accessible to me.”
She began her dance life with ballet classes at a local Boys and Girls Club. Already 13, Misty’s chances of a career should have been zero. But at age 15, she won the Los Angeles Music Center’s prestigious Spotlight Award. Her talent set her apart, and desire drove her. Dance became a necessity.
We all love the magical story of the unexpected success, making all the heartache and the struggle worthwhile.
Fortunately, Misty was given the chance to see and feel the reality of what she wanted so desperately, offering her that little extra faith.
“I don’t know where my path would’ve taken me had I not been introduced to ballet, had I not been in this surrounding. People don’t understand, I think, how rich the arts are especially in Southern California. And having incredible facilities to be able to go and see the top of the top. You know I think that we’re very fortunate to have that in Southern California and have an opportunity to see companies like ABT. And for me, I think that was kind of all part of the process of me falling in love with dance. Its saving me was being able to go to live performances as a child and know that that was my future and that it was possible.”
“I performed and premiered Firebird there on the Segerstrom stage and that was a huge deal I think for classical ballet as an African-American woman for someone who grew up and trained in California to come back and perform on the stage such an iconic role.”
Yes possible, inspirational, wonderful and, in 2012 absolutely game changing.
“I performed and premiered Firebird there on the on the Segerstrom stage and that was a huge deal I think for classical ballet as an African-American woman for someone who grew up and trained in California to come back and perform on the stage such an iconic role.”
Misty and her charismatic powers have brought more than just attention back to a classic art form. With all the clichés about shattering barriers and being a role model, she truly is a genuine heroine. Confident but humble, diligent and hardworking, cheerful and kind. She’s really, really nice. And she understands what all this attention means.
“This is the one place in like pop-culture and in the world that we respect our elders so much they’re such a part of carrying on this art form. So yeah I mean it’s, it’s interesting to be in this position I never thought that I would be the one people were looking at, but it’s part of the cycle and I am and I accept this role. And I think I’m wearing it, you know, well and I’m proud to be in this position.”