The Knockturnal was on the scene for a special screening of Misty Copeland documentary ‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ at the 92Y. Gayle King moderated an insightful conversation after the screening with Misty and director Nelson George.
Read what Misty had to say below!
Take us back to the moment when you were told Misty it’s yours? Was it a phone call? Were you at home? Tell us how did it go when you got the news?
First of all thank you for being here I’m so excited about the film coming out, and having everyone be able to see it means so much to us. The American Ballet Theater is so unpredictable so you never know how someone is going to find out they got promoted. I was called in for a private meeting by Kevin the artistic director and he said he was promoting me to a soloist, but I couldn’t say anything until the press release. But of course I told Lu. It was announced it was in front of the whole company during a tour meeting.
Did you feel love and support from everyone?
Yes, but I get a pretty nice mix response from people which keeps me grounded. Some people say that my race has helped me. But I think that is just an ignorant comment.
Did you think you were down for the count when you were injured, and did the chiropractor help?
Yes it did help; dancers go through a different kind of pain. They could have some thing out of place, and be in a lot of pain but if they’re able to walk the show must go on! So unless you’re physically incapable, you deal with these situations because you want to get on stage. My shin injury was something I never experienced before. And I didn’t want myself to believe that was at the end because I think that you’re mental and emotional state are very important to the healing process.
So what motivated you to get on stage when you were in so much pain? You mentioned you didn’t want to let the audience down.
It was a combination, one thing was knowing the impact of Gilda really getting this message off this is a big deal for us African-American soloists, the house was almost sold out and I just wanted to represent the African American community to prove that we are capable. And I felt like will never have this chance again. So I kind of just blacked out and became firebird!
Were you on drugs?
No, I wanted to know what was going on with my body and I didn’t want to do more damage.
Some people think you talk about being black too much. What does that mean?
You tell me! It’s still being brought to my attention because people think that I focus on it too much, but I don’t think it’s possible to tell my story or my experience how I got to this point and all the obstacles I had to overcome without expressing that I am an African-American woman and that’s why this is so important! This is why I’ve had the obstacles I faced and this is why its such a big deal. To Deny or ignore those facts would is not being truthful about my experiences.
You’ve been told that your skin tone, and muscular body will be distracting to the audience. Isn’t that an interesting way to phrase that you’re not welcome here, and you were not deterred by that?
No. That’s been told to generations and generations of black people but that was never brought to my attention until I was a professional. But I was lucky because so many dancers hear that before they even become a professional and that changes their mind so I was very fortunate to be around a multicultural school that supported me.
What did u know when u were a little girl dancing in that group, how did you know this is what you were supposed to do?
I was a scared little girl who had no direction and I had no desire, passion or interest in anything. But once I stepped into the ballet studio It just made sense, I felt love, I had a voice, a feeling of longing for the first time. Like being a part of something bigger than myself.
Who did you look up to?
Alma Herrera probubly because she was the youngest principle dancer at ABT and Mariah Carey, I used to choreograph to her music and she was a successful biracial woman.
The add that said “I will I want” was touching, so what do you want?
I want there to be a lot more Mistys to come.
Who’s your favorite ballet character?
What do you wish you would have know before you started to dance?
I Feel fortunate to not have known anything, because it gave me no boundaries and that gave me an opportunity to just be me.
What was your mental healing process like?
My mentor was a very important part of that process. She kept me focused through my lowest point, and helped enhance everything I came in with. It was about not allowing myself to have doubts or to give up; Marjorie would help me with that every day.
If you weren’t dancing where would you be now?
Maybe, I would have had a couple kids, and be married to a fisherman.
The film is now playing!