If you’re looking for a inspiring story to share with your dance students, look no further than that of Misty Copeland. The professional ballerina has gained a lot of attention in the past year, thanks to her lead role in “Swan Lake” and her powerful advertisement for Under Armour. Her story is one of determination and overcoming adversity and can be a fun teaching tool for young dancers.
‘I Will What I Want’
The world of professional dance, along with many other artistic and athletic professions, is brutally competitive and often harsh on young hopefuls. Copeland didn’t start training as a ballerina until she was 13 years old and faced a lot of rejection in her climb to the top. Her story is a great example for young athletes, as it shows that just because one coach or director tells you “no,” you can still be successful if you put your mind to it.
Copeland’s story became a viral sensation when Under Armour featured her in an advertisement. The video, which has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube, features Copeland dancing while a rejection letter she received as a young dancer is read out loud. Copeland believes that the ad resounded with so many viewers because it addresses common experiences of rejection and perseverance.
“I think so many people can relate to it – not just as a dancer within the ballet world, but just feeling different, feeling like you don’t fit in,” Copeland told the TODAY show.
According to Copeland’s website, she overcame the obstacles that stood in her way and made history in 2007 as the first African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre in two decades. Dance instructors can use the Under Armour video and information from Copeland’s website to start a conversation about goals, hard work and adversity with their students.
Copeland in Print
If you want to assign your dancers a little homework, Copeland has not one, but two books about her journey as an artist. Her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” is a great read for older students. In it, she talks about growing up with five siblings in a poor household, how she got into dance and what the different struggles have been throughout her career. She also describes her career-defining performances, like working with music artist Prince and as the first African-American woman to star in “Firebird.”
“[Playing the Firebird] was one of the first really big principal roles I was ever given an opportunity to dance with American Ballet Theatre,” Copeland told NPR. “It was a huge step for the African-American community.”
This role was the inspiration for Copeland’s new children’s book, “Firebird.” The story is filled with bright, colorful illustrations that make it perfect for a class of young dancers. It addresses common issues like confidence and self-doubt. The moral of the story is that with hard work and self-assurance, young dancers can achieve any goals they set. The picture book could easily be used to calm novice students before their first big performance!
Continuing Her Growth
While Copeland is performing in Australia as the the lead in “Swan Lake,” the people in Hollywood are planning to spread her message even further. Deadline reported that filmmakers at New Line Cinema are considering making a movie based on Copeland’s memoir. The film would focus on her early years as a dancer and the struggles she faced. Copeland is definitely a star that dance professionals should keep an eye on – her story and message are both powerful teaching tools that can inspire young dancers!