#BlackExcellence: Misty Copeland, Calvin Royal III score first in The American Ballet Theatre

They will perform Friday at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., in 'Harlequinade' as a couple, a first for two Black dancers to appear as leads in the ballet repertory.

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Misty Copeland is set to make history again. This time with Calvin Royal III, by becoming the first black couple to dance lead roles with The American Ballet Theatre, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Copeland, who became the first African American female principal dancer with The American Ballet Theatre, and Royal III will perform Friday in Harlequinade as Pirrette and Pierrot, respectively, at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., the report says.

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“To finally be able to take the stage, two leading dancers in a production with ABT, I see it as such a huge step forward in terms of visibility,” said Royal.

Royal joined ABT in 2010 and was promoted to soloist in 2017. Copeland and Royal are the only African Americans to hold the positions of principal and soloist in ABT history.

“I remember being that person looking to ABT and hoping that I could see myself there,” he added. “By us being in that position, we’ll do that for somebody else.”

Copeland and Royal have worked together before. Copeland believes Royal’s “exquisite talent” speaks for itself, and seeing them together is magic and much-needed representation, according to The Times.

“When two talented dancers can come together, it’s ideal and exciting. But when two of those dancers are Black, it’s explosive. At least for me!” she said. “I’ve always put Calvin at the forefront of my mind to bring with me as a partner whenever I’m doing gigs outside of ABT. It’s because of his talent first and foremost, but also the significance and importance to our communities for two Black dancers to dance together. It’s rare. Like REALLY rare.”

Since it is very rare to see two Black dancers perform as leads, Royal said he hopes the performance inspires young people. Copeland also said she’s trying to be “a platform for the dialogue and conversation of race within ballet.”

Harlequinade will premiere on Friday in Costa Mesa, California. The performance will take place from Jan. 17-20.