Misty Copeland with a student from the MindLeaps Girls Program in Rwanda. Courtesy MindLeaps.

Misty Copeland Launches Girls Program, Scholarship in Rwanda

As someone who experienced poverty as a child, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland has since become a powerful advocate for disadvantaged youth. And she recently found a new platform to help give back. Last week, she returned home from Kigali, Rwanda after working with the humanitarian nonprofit MindLeaps, which serves some of the city's poorest children, many of whom are homeless and lack access to school.

MindLeaps uses dance classes to improve the children's cognitive development and prepare them for more structured learning environments. Eventually it adds classes in English and IT to prepare them for either boarding school or the workplace. Until now, the program has only been available to boys. Copeland arrived to officially launch the MindLeaps Girls Program, and to award a top dance student the Misty Copeland Scholarship to go to boarding school.

Copeland admits that the level of poverty she witnessed was eye-opening. “Kids literally live on the street!" she told Pointe over email. “Dance is giving them hope, a goal, a real escape. They are connecting their memory, using their brain for physical coordination, using their words to describe what they're doing and creating."

Copeland kept a video blog to document her experience, which included meeting the girls and leading them through a basic ballet class, as well as visiting mass graves from Rwanda's 1994 Tutsi genocide. In this video, a young boy, Ali, shows her the concrete tunnel under the street where he sleeps at night. Watching his reaction when she later offers to sponsor him to attend boarding school is priceless.

MindLeaps is currently raising funds for the Misty Copeland Scholarship and Girls Program through the International Artists Fund. “Dance sets you up for life in the most beautiful way," she says, “and my time at MindLeaps was the most extreme truth of that."

Latest Posts


Whitney Ingram

Revisiting Julie Kent's Dance Bag, 20 Years Later

Julie Kent was our very first Show & Tell when Pointe magazine launched in spring of 2000. Then a principal with American Ballet Theatre, Kent carried a second bag entirely dedicated to her pointe shoes. Twenty years later, she is now the artistic director of The Washington Ballet, and no longer needs to tote her pointe shoes. "For 40 years they were like a part of my body," says Kent. "And now they're not part of the landscape until my daughter's old enough to go on pointe." Nevertheless, Kent's current role keeps her in the studio. She always carries practice clothes and ballet slippers for teaching and rehearsals.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck's Top 10 Tips for Training at Home

On March 15, New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck announced to her 172,000-plus Instagram followers that she'd be teaching a live class from her family's home in Bakersfield, California, where she's currently waiting out COVID-19. Little did she know that she'd receive such a viral response. Since then, Peck has offered daily Instagram LIVE classes Monday through Friday at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, plus an occasional Saturday class and Sunday stretch/Pilates combo. "The reaction was just so overwhelming," she says. "These classes are keeping me sane, and giving me something to look forward to."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

It’s OK to Grieve: Coping with the Emotional Toll of Canceled Dance Events

Grace Campbell was supposed to be onstage this week. Selected for the Kansas City Ballet School's invitation-only Kansas City Youth Ballet, her performance was meant to be the highlight of her senior year. "I was going to be Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, and also dance in a couple of contemporary pieces, so I was really excited," she says. A week later, the group was supposed to perform at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC. In May, Grace was scheduled to take the stage again KC Ballet School's "senior solos" show and spring performance.

Now, all those opportunities are gone.

The COVID-19 pandemic has consumed the dance community. The performance opportunities students have worked all year for have been devoured with it. Those canceled shows might have been your only chance to dance for an audience all year. Or they might have been the dance equivalent to a cap and gown—a time to be acknowledged after years of work.

You can't replace what is lost, and with that comes understandable grief. Here's how to process your feelings of loss, and ultimately use them to help yourself move forward as a dancer.

Keep reading SHOW LESS