Misty Copeland’s new book ‘Black Ballerinas’ reveals hidden figures of dance

The dancer, writer, and icon discovered some key women who paved the way for her success

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Misty Copeland has had an iconic career this far. In 2015, she made history by becoming the first Black woman promoted to principal dancer in the history of the American Ballet Theater, the famed New York City dance company, and school.

Now, she’s revealing the stories behind other pioneering ballerinas who have gone unheralded despite their accomplishments. Copeland’s new book “Black Ballerinas” profiles 27 such dancers who in many cases, were also “firsts,” but have been lost to history.

Some of those dancers include actress Victoria Rowell who began her career as a ballet dancer, Aesha Ash, the first Black woman to teach full time at the School of American Ballet, Michaela DePrince, second soloist of the Boston Ballet, and Frances Taylor Davis, an accomplished dancer who was the first Black woman to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet and was Miles Davis‘ first wife.

Misty Copeland thegrio.com
Misty Copeland (Credit: Simon and Schuster)

“This is not a comprehensive list of all the dancers that existed throughout history,” Copeland told theGrio writer Tonya Pendleton last year. “I hope this is the beginning of people wanting to add and wanting to do more research and learn more about the dancers that are included, because even the bios that we have and the pages that we have, it’s not at all their entire careers or accomplishments.

But I wanted to give a snapshot of dancers throughout my journey who have impacted me and who I’ve seen impact the dance world. And not just dancers that have come before me who have opened doors for me, who aren’t often acknowledged, but the dancers that I’m dancing with today, dancers that are younger that will continue on our legacy.

And so, no, this is by far, not even close to the amazing history that we have as Black women in this field, but it’s a start. And, it’s showing, through my lens, what these dancers have done to impact me and the world in my eyes.”

Misty Copeland Black Ballerina thegrio.com
(Credit: Simon and Schuster)

theGrio’s Cortney Wills talked to Copeland recently and she shared more about the book, how she came to write it, why she specifically chose a Black illustrator for the images, and what she’s planning for 2022. Watch their interview at the top of the page.

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