Misty Copeland's Swan Lake Debut at the Met

American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland is not the first African American woman to dance the iconic role of Odette/Odile. And some warn, rightly so, that the rich history of black ballerinas (Lauren Anderson, Debra Austin, Anne Benna Sims, Nora Kimball and Virginia Johnson, to name just a few) has gotten lost in all the publicity hype surrounding Copeland. Others complain that her PR campaign is an overly aggressive attempt to achieve principal status. But in her New York debut as Odette/Odile on Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that something special and extremely important was happening at the Metropolitan Opera House.


For one thing, it was essentially a sold out performance—which is pretty unheard of for a Wednesday matinee, when most people are at work. (I know of two individuals who flew in from out of town, just to see her dance.) And the audience was refreshingly diverse. “We’re here to support our sister,” one woman proclaimed outside the theater, triumphantly punching the air. I saw young, aspiring ballerinas—hair upswept in buns, turned-out feet, erect spines—playing hooky from ballet class to see their role model perform, as well as every dance critic in the business. The energy in the house was frenetic. With such a huge crowd and high expectations, Copeland was under enormous pressure to deliver.


Luckily, she did. Copeland’s Odette was supple, vulnerable and musically sensitive, her expressive port de bras especially resonant. As Odile, she was strong and commanding, although she struggled during the fouettés, finishing with pirouettes from fifth. Some may judge her harshly for this, but I’ve seen lots of dancers falter in their fouettés—and they didn’t have the whole dance world watching. Beyond this blip, Copeland was composed, secure and solidly focused throughout, and proved that she has the aplomb and charisma to carry a full-length ballet (last week she also debuted as Juliet).


The dramatic ovation at the ballet’s conclusion spoke volumes as to what Copeland’s performance as Odette/Odile meant to her fans and to the African American community. The theater went absolutely wild. In a touching moment, former Houston Ballet principal Lauren Anderson and Copeland’s mentor, former Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo ballerina Raven Wilkinson, stepped onstage to deliver bouquets of flowers. Whether one feels comfortable with it or not, Copeland’s popularity is legitimate and undeniable—for many people, black and white, she is an inspiration, a hero and a star. Will she become the first female African American principal at ABT? That is the million-dollar question her fans are anxiously waiting to be answered.

Latest Posts

Maria Kochetkova. Darian Volkova, Courtesy Kochetkova

Maria Kochetkova on How COVID-19 Affected Her Freelance Career, and Her New Home at Finnish National Ballet

When international star Maria Kochetkova embarked on a freelance career three years ago, she never envisioned how a global pandemic would affect it. In 2018, the Russian-born ballerina left the security of San Francisco Ballet, a company she called home for more than a decade, for the globe-trotting life of a guest star. Before the pandemic, Kochetkova managed her own performing schedule and was busier than ever, enjoying artistic freedom and expanding her creative horizons. This all changed in March 2020, when she saw her booming career—and her jet-setting lifestyle—change almost overnight.

After months of uncertainty, Kochetkova landed at Finnish National Ballet, where she is a principal dancer for the 2020–21 season. Pointe spoke with her about her time during the quarantine and what helped her to get through it, her new life in Helsinki, and what keeps her busy and motivated these days.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
DTH's Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington work out with trainer Lily Overmyer at Studio IX. Photo by Joel Prouty, Courtesy Hutchinson.

Working Out With DTH’s Alexandra Hutchinson

Despite major pandemic shutdowns in New York City, Alexandra Hutchinson has been HIIT-ing her stride. Between company class with Dance Theater of Harlem and projects like the viral video "Dancing Through Harlem"—which she co-directed with roommate and fellow DTH dancer Derek Brockington—Hutchinson has still found time to cross-train. She shares her motivation behind her killer high-intensity interval training at Studio IX on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

As Ballet Looks Toward Its Future, Let's Talk About Its Troubling Emotional Demands

As a ballet student, I distinctively remember being told that to survive ballet as a profession, one must be exceptionally thick-skinned and resilient. I always assumed it was because of the physically demanding nature of ballet: long rehearsal hours, challenging and stressful performances, and physical pain.

It wasn't until I joined a ballet company that I learned the true meaning behind those words: that the reason one needs thick skin is not because of the physical demands, but because of the unfair and unnecessary emotional demands.

Undoubtedly, emotional and physical strength go hand in hand to some extent. But the kind of emotional demand I am talking about here is different; it is not the strength one finds in oneself in moments of fatigue or unwillingness. It is the strength one must have when being bullied, humiliated, screamed at, manipulated or harassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks