Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack in costume for TWB's Swan Lake. Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy TWB.

History in the Making: The Washington Ballet to Cast Brooklyn Mack and Misty Copeland in "Swan Lake"

This story originally appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of Pointe.

This April, The Washington Ballet will not only tackle its first ever full-length Swan Lake, but it will cast two African-American dancers, American Ballet Theatre's Misty Copeland and TWB's Brooklyn Mack, in the principal roles of Odette/Odile and Siegfried. The performances run April 8–12 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Artistic director Septime Webre has long had his sights set on challenging TWB with the iconic ballet. It wasn't until this past season that he felt the company, particularly the corps, was ready. “It's important for me to make a strong statement with our first Swan Lake," Webre says.


“This could not have had more perfect timing," says Copeland. Mack—one of TWB's most notable partners since joining the company six years ago—agrees. “To have two African-American dancers as the leads in a major company is so important," he says.

Why has it taken so long to reach this moment? “There are so many inequalities imbedded in society," Mack says, that affect casting decisions. He's glad he can be a role model for young people, who will see a strong black man in a “white tights" ballet.

Copeland, though, isn't dancing her Odette/Odile for the next generation. “This is really for the people in power now," she says, alluding to artistic and executive directors who often turn a blind eye to race.

“Without a doubt, Misty is breaking new ground onstage and off," Webre says, regarding the ballerina's work as a spokesmodel and supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs. “What's great is that she's able to maintain her incredible artistry even while this amazing celebrity has occurred."

“To have these dancers," Webre continues, “willing to go on record and talk about not just the creation of their art and their past roles, but also talk about what it means to them as dancers of color, is educational for students. It also reaches out on a global level."

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bill Cooper, Courtesy The Royal Opera House

Pro Pointe Shoe Hacks from Royal Ballet Principal Yasmine Naghdi

Did you know that Royal Ballet principal Yasmine Naghdi's pointe shoes are actually made up of two different models, combined? Below, watch pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee interview Naghdi on all of her pointe shoe hacks, from her anti-slipping tricks to her darning technique.

Syvert Lorenz Garcia in Trey McIntyre's Who Am I Here? Courtesy McIntyre

The Trey McIntyre Project Is Back—And Completely Reimagined

By Nancy Wozny For Dance Magazine

Six years after shuttering his popular dance troupe Trey McIntyre Project, its eponymous founder is relaunching the company as a conduit for digital dance films, with a project called FLTPK. "It's not a company of dancers," McIntyre insists. "It's a community of artists."

In March, McIntyre was ready to premiere his David Bowie ballet Pretty Things, his first new work for Houston Ballet in nearly two decades, when the city shut down. With COVID-19 infections in the New York City area spiking, he decided to stay put.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks