EN POINTE: Misty Copeland pushes for diversity, accessibility in ballet

- You may not catch Misty Copeland getting a pedicure any time soon.

“We work our whole careers to build up calluses and bunions to protect our feet, so when we’re dancing on our toes for eight hours a day, it’s not hurting and we’re not bleeding,” she said Monday in an interview at the National Press Club in D.C.

Instead of curating her feet, the 34-year-old principal dancer is curating a special performance at the Kennedy Center to represent a diverse America.

Copeland is in D.C. this week alongside New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer Justin Peck to promote Ballet Across America, a performance that features dancers from different companies all over the country.

The first African-American principal ballet dancer, Copeland is a fast rising star in the dance community with an aim to make classical ballet accessible to every community.

“African-American dancers, in particular, have been told that they don’t have the right bodies for generations,” she said. “Just addressing these issues is making companies wake up and realize it’s not acceptable to not accept diversity.”

Copeland has taken on a new role to bring dance companies she respects and loves an opportunity to be seen at a prestigious level.

“I stand on the shoulders of so many dancers who have fought and fought for me to be in this position, so I feel like I represent all of them,” she said. “It’s like I’m this vessel for so many people, in the future and in the past.”

She’s also promoting her new book, Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You, where she expresses the importance of balance in diet and exercise, and in being a real person to people who look up to her. 

“I want to be human to people.  I want them to know that just because you reach a certain level of success, doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts and you don’t have struggles.”

Ballet Across America runs at the Kennedy Center Opera House April 19-23, and Ballerina Body is out now.

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