Despite being one of the greatest ballerinas in the world, sometimes even Misty Copeland has an off day or rather just a human day. Earlier this month the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater was performing in Swan Lake and instead of completing 32 fouettés (turns) at the end of the piece, she did 12 instead and then improvised the rest. Well, critics on the internet went crazy spewing hate about her terrible performance and called Copeland an embarrassment to the ABT.
But you know what, you don’t mess with Copeland. She clapped back, but in the classiest of ways. On March 28th she responded to a Tweet calling her “the worst.”
“I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet. I understand my position and what I represent. I know that I’m in a very unique position and have been given a rare platform. All I’ve ever wanted is to bring ballet to more people and to help to diversify it.
I’ve worked extremely hard to be where I am and I believe that what I bring to the table is authentic artistry with a unique point of view through my life experiences, and my unusual path and upbringing.
Also as a black woman and black ballerina. I would love to see all of the incredible deserving black dancers get the opportunities that I have.I will forever be humbled and extremely grateful for the fact that I get to do what I love for a living, that I get to do all of the incredible roles that I do, in particular Swan Queen.
Copeland has always been vocal about the lack of diversity in the ballet world and that this puts a lot of pressure on her graceful shoulders. She continued in her comment:
There are so many ballerinas that never get to experience dancing the most iconic and demanding role in a ballerinas repertoire. I have so so so much respect for what I do and for the ballerinas I stand on the shoulders of. I’m in awe every day that I am a part of such an incredible art form that has changed and enriched my life in so many ways and that I get to do it all with ABT.”
I don’t decide who’s promoted or what roles I dance. I never envisioned myself as the Swan Queen after being in the company for almost 15 years before i was given the opportunity. I have such deep and conflicting feelings connected to Swan Lake. As a black woman and as a ballerina given the chance to take on this role. I often question if I deserve to perform this role. My conclusion, I do. Some of the most memorable Swan Queens in history have brought so much more to this role without having to present the incredible and evolved technique of today by doing insane tricks that bring some to see Swan Lake. For the anticipated 32 fouettés. But it is so much more than that.
As for why she decided to respond to this negative backlash Copeland told Cosmopolitan.com, “As an artist, you have to be sensitive and you have to be vulnerable, but at the same time, you can’t let those things affect your performance, so I wanted to show that you can learn from these things, whether they’re negative or positive and I wanted to show there’s a positive way if you want to address these people, your critics, whoever is saying things about you who doesn’t even know you. There’s a way to do it so that it’s not putting someone else down, but just kind of learning from the experience.”
Even history makers aren’t perfect all the time but there should be no question that Copeland isn’t an absolutely fantastic dancer and she is opening up ballet to a whole new set of talented people. Back in 2012 when she headlined in Stravinsky’s “Firebird” and she first saw her own image as a billboard in front of the Metropolitan Opera House, she wrote in her memoir, “I was in profile, wearing a red leotard, with my chest and back arched so you could see my full, feminine breasts and my round butt. It was everything that people don’t expect in a ballerina. I stood completely still for five minutes, just crying. It was beauty. It was power. It was a woman. It was me.”
As for why she decided to respond to the situation instead of just ignore it Copeland told Cosmopolitan, “I just try not to get caught up in reviews and reading things on the internet because they don’t know you, and people don’t know your journey, and I think that especially in America, especially in New York, when people come to see ballet, I think everyone kind of feels like they’re a critic,” Copeland said.