Breaking down ballet barriers – Misty Copeland

By Jessica Paradysz
September 17, 2014

Creative Commons
Copeland performs in a ballet.
Creative Commons Copeland performs in a ballet.

Tutus, shiny satin shoes, grace and elegance are synonymous with ballet. Ballerinas are seen as lithe dolls that can make a string of pirouettes look effortless.

Misty Copeland,  American Ballet  Theatre dancer, challenges the status quo with her new ad for Under Armour.

Misty Copeland poses for a ballet photoshoot. (Flickr Creative Commons)
Misty Copeland poses for a ballet photoshoot. (Flickr Creative Commons)

Copeland spins on the screen donning the sleek Under Armour clothing instead of a flowing tutu. The video opens with Copeland raising her legs in sous-sus, balancing her weight on pointe shoes. Her legs are incredibly muscular and strong.

In the background her voice rings through the stage, reciting a rejection letter.
“You have the wrong body for ballet.” The harsh statement is juxtaposed by Copeland performing amazing feats; leaping high in the air, legs extended, spinning in a succession of turns and raising her legs. Copeland is an established soloist ballerina, despite being rejected originally and starting classes at age 13.
Ballet is much like the fashion world or the silver screen, there is immense pressure placed on girls to be beautiful and to fit a strict mold. The industries are sparkling and glamorous on the surface yet there is discrimination, hard work and exhaustion behind the scenes.

Behind the scenes, dancers are pushed to the limits, working tirelessly and dancing in their delicate pointe shoes until their feet are raw and bleeding–not exactly the picture of ballet that many see in the “Nutcracker.” Onstage, everything seems picture-perfect.
I was not a little ballerina tottering on the stage at 2-years old. I started at age 10 and was excited to break in my first pointe shoes years later.

Although my level of dance experience at local studio could never rival the ABT, I know the pain of adapting to new shoes. I know the sadness of the once bright pink shoes becoming dull. I know the feeling of forcing a tight smile, floating across the floor in bourrée when your feet are tired and you just want to fall on the floor and take a nap.

My last pointe dance was to an aching classical ballet song. Dressed in a sequined gold outfit, I smiled with red-pink lips at every turn. Inside, I was secretly grateful for not falling on the bright wooden stage in front of everyone.

Copeland is an inspiration for dancers and girls around the country. She defied odds and challenges, followed her passions, and never took “no” for an answer. Under Armour’s, “I Will What I Want Campaign,” is a powerful message for women everywhere.

Copeland is also author. She released her book, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” in March 2014. Copeland is the third African-American soloist in the history of the prestigious ABT.
In history ballet originated as an outlet for the aristocracy. Ballet is much more open to anyone who wants to dance. Yet barriers still need to be broken, both culturally and financially. Also girls need to be inspired to dance and stop being told that they may not measure up. Anything is possible.

Cabrini offers fine arts dance classes in classical ballet and modern for those interested in  attending upbeat classes and learning techniques. The Cabrini Dance Team and Cavalier Dance Company are also outlets for dancers.

For those who still think that ballet is not athletic, watch Copeland’s commercial. In fact, ballet is even more of an art as dancers must perform strenuous routines while keeping a smile and air of grace-now that’s a sport

Jessica Paradysz

Jessica is a junior communication major and Spanish minor. She currently is the Perspectives Editor for The Loquitur. Jessica is passionate about writing and believes that the paper is a great platform for students to showcase their creativity. She is one of the social media and marketing chairs for the Cavalier Dance Company. As a writer, she knows that dancing can tell a story. Everyone has a story to tell, and she is excited for the stories that will fill the pages of the paper this year.

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