12 Days of Holiday Thanks: Misty Copeland

It's rare when a late-starter becomes a professional dancer—much less with one of ballet's most prestigious companies—but Misty Copeland breaks the mold. She experienced her first tendu at 13, thanks to a Boys and Girls Club, and today, she's American Ballet Theatre's first African-American female soloist.

Copeland's fast track in pre-professional training led her to study with Diane Lauridsen at Lauridsen Ballet Centre in California, who Copeland thanks for her solid technique.

"When I was 15, I went to Diane because everyone said I had so much potential. But at her studio, I wasn't a star and she didn't treat me like one. I was like anyone else and I appreciate how hard she was on me. I was taking three classes a day: Beginning ballet with five and six-year-olds, an intermediate class and an advanced class. I had to catch up.

She was adamant about building strong technique. I'm flexible, have hyper-extended knees and really mobile feet--you'd think it's a blessing, but she didn't let me sit back and rely on my talent. When you get older, you start to lose some of that natural facility. I know I'll always have a clean base to fall back on."

Photo: Misty Copeland in Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream, by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT

Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

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Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

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