With barres lining the charming Harlem Stage, a group of young students from Dance Theater of Harlem and Harlem School of the Arts emerged from the wings. Among them was the petite ballet superstar, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland. Harlem Stage in association with Dance Theater of Harlem and the Harlem School of the Arts presented the class designed to give these aspiring dancers the chance to engage with a professional artist.
The students, filled with nervous excitement, took their places. "Relax, have fun and let's learn something," said Copeland.
Standing at 5' 2'', Copeland quickly disarmed the eager teens with her playful, yet stern grace. "Don't let the claw creep into your fingers," she said, as she softened Dougie Baldeo's fingers. With a coy smile, she asked, "Are you going to remember that?" Baldeo, along with his peers, will most likely never forget a moment of the experience.
Copeland offered other nuggets of wisdom throughout the class. "Don't push your turnout, keep your heels together, knees up and arches lifted," she encouraged during the plié combination. "Hold the bar, but always stand on your own two feet," she added.
After the barre, Dance Theatre of Harlem legend Carmen de Lavallade stood up from the front row, where she'd been watching the class. "Ballet is hard," she said. "But everything is hard," she added. De Lavallade then took the reigns from Copeland and had her own advice for the young group. She talked about finding the light in the movement and making the music your partner. "Have an attitude about your attitude," she said. She left the kids with the reminder that dancers are storytellers who need to use their imaginations.
Following the class, de Lavallade sat down with Copeland for a discussion about the mentors that influenced them and being two of the first African-American dancers in ballet and modern dance. Moderated by Zita Allen from New York Amsterdam News, the ladies were candid about the struggles they've had to overcome throughout their careers.
Check out the full talk here: