It sounds a bit like a fairytale. At 13, a young Misty Copeland is introduced to ballet through a local Boys and Girls Club. Her talents earn her a full scholarship to American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive, after which she joins the Studio Company––and poof! In 2007, she becomes the company’s first African American female soloist in two decades with some cool side gigs, frequently collaborating with Prince.
Copeland shares this story in episode five of Hulu’s “A Day In The Life,” directed by Morgan Spurlock. (Yes, we’re talking about the guy who broke into the mainstream documentary scene with Super Size Me.) The show features notable culture icons and follows them for 24 hours. Our ballerina has some tough competition––other episodes include names like businessman Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Group empire, and Black Eyed Peas front man, will.i.am.
It’s a busy day in NYC for Copeland: An awkwardly edited interview at Uptown magazine, a quick meeting with her business partner for her upcoming dancewear line “M by Misty,” rehearsal at Dance Theatre of Harlem and a performance benefit for Harlem School of the Arts––and she powers through it all in heels! Though I doubt she wears 4-inch wedges to and from long rehearsals (and if she does, I’m very impressed) or travels strictly by taxi, Spurlock portrayed more than a ballerina. Copeland comes across as an intelligent artist and savvy businesswoman who gives back to her community.
In dance terms, the 23-minute webisode is lack luster. Rehearsal and performance shots are cut so close you can barely see the action. Let’s face it––dancers want to see the meat and potatoes! And I think non-dancers would appreciate the full package, too. Copeland reminds us that she has an unconventional body for a ballet dancer, but we barely get to see a full shot of her in the studio to show off her gorgeous lines or her muscles and curves.
The highlight of our time with Copeland is, without a doubt, at the very opening when she travels to a Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx to speak to a ballet class. The students take the opportunity to study her technique––how she stays aligned in pirouettes and tricks she uses to appear more turned out. In the end, they find inspiration in her success as a young black woman at ABT. It reminds us that influential teaching can happen in the smallest moments. And though it’s not likely that one of these girls will become the next Misty Copeland, I’m sure that meeting this role model is an event they’ll remember for quite some time.
Want to hear more about Copeland? Click here to read about her in Dance Magazine.
Pictured: Misty in costume for Prince's Crimson and Clover video. Photo by Matt Karas, courtesy of Dance Magazine.