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"Firebird" Misty Copeland

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What is Black History Month? To most it is a month of remembering important people and events in the history of African Americans. For Vintage NYC Magazine, it is a month where we remember the past yet look forward to the future. Misty Copeland connects the past to the present and represents a bright new future. A breathtaking artist in a classical art form centuries old, Misty’s strength, compassion and dynamic talent are paving the way for a new generation of dancers of color, and inspiring young people of all backgrounds. Misty Copeland, our muse and icon, is writing a new future, one where Black History Month is every month of the year, one where people of color are celebrated every day of the year, because the struggles of the past, while never forgotten, were a fight for the future, where we are all the same.

In 2007, Misty Copeland made history by becoming the third African American soloist and first in two decades, at American Ballet Theatre.

Born in Kansas, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty took her first ballet class at 13, an advanced age to begin this traditional art form. Training at the San Pedro Dance Center, Misty was en pointe within three months. Soon after she starred as Clare in The Chocolate Nutcracker, the Debbie Allen narrated African American version of the Nutcracker.

At age 15, Misty won first place in the prestigious Los Angeles Spotlight awards prompting the Los Angeles Times to name her as the Best Young Dancer in the Greater Los Angeles Area. After winning Spotlight, Misty accepted a full scholarship to attend San Francisco Ballet’s summer intensive program. Subsequently, Misty began training at The Lauridsen Ballet Center in Southern California.

Misty was once again offered a full scholarship in 2000 to attend American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive Program and was also declared ABT’s National Coca Cola Scholar. At the completion of the Summer Intensive, among 150 dancers, Misty was one of six girls chosen to join American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company.

Additionally, Misty was asked to accompany the main company on their China tour. In 2001 Misty joined ABT’s Corps De Ballet. In 2002 Misty was selected by ABT’s director, Kevin McKenzie, to compete for the Princess Grace Award. In 2007 Mr. McKenzie again chose Misty to compete for the Erik Bruhn Prize. He promoted Misty that same year to the rank of Soloist with American Ballet Theatre, and she became the first African American female in two decades to earn the position of Soloist.

In 2008, Misty was honored with the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts. This two year fellowship is awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent, providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential.

Her roles with American Ballet Theatre include: Firebird-The Firebird, Gamzatti-La Bayadere, Muse-Duo Concertant, Guinare-Le Corsaire, Flower Girl-Don Quixote, The Peasant Pas de Deux-Giselle, Lead Harlot-Romeo and Juliet, Fairy of Valor-The Sleeping Beauty, Princess Florine-The Sleeping Beauty, Pas de Trois and a Cygnet-Swan Lake, The Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Sinatra Suite-Twyla Tharpe, workwithinwork-William Forsythe, Overgrown Path-Jiri Kylian, Gong-Mark Morris, Company B, Airs-Paul Taylor, Milkmaid-The Bright Stream and a Principal role created on her in Alexei Ratmansky’s Dumbarton. Misty’s performances with American Ballet Theatre are sponsored by Harriette Cole.

Misty has been featured in numerous publications and television programs including: People Magazine, Time Magazine, O Magazine, W Magazine, Dance Magazine, New York Times, CNN, Headline News, BET, Fox News, the Tavis Smiley Show and Lopez Tonight. As further evidence of her broad appeal, Misty was handpicked by Prince to star in his "Crimson and Clover" video and was special guest artist at his concerts in Nice, France - July 2010, Madison Square Garden and IZOD Center- December 2010 and the Los Angeles Forum- April/May 2011. Misty was honored with induction into the Boys and Girls Club National Hall of Fame in May of 2012. In addition, her services have been sought after by award winning recording artists such as Ne-Yo, award winning documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Morgan Spurlock and designer Rachel Roy. Passionate about giving back, Misty's charitable endeavors have included performing for friend, actress and author Victoria Rowell's "Foster Children's Positive Plan" (RFCPP) annual High Tea at Noon fundraiser and Uptown Dance Academy's "Black Nutcracker". Her endorsements past and present include BlackBerry, Proactiv, Payless, Capezio, Sansha, Boys & Girls Club and Lavazza Coffee.

By: Vintage NYC Creative Director Jade Young

Photography By: Jade Young

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