Misty Copeland Becomes The First Black Principal Dancer At The American Ballet Theatre

Another barrier has just been smashed, this time in ballet.

Another barrier has just been smashed, this time in ballet.

American ballerina Misty Copeland, a long time distinguished dancer and star of Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign, has been promoted to principal dancer, the highest rank of the American Ballet Theatre. With this promotion, she becomes the first African-American female dancer to achieve that position in the company’s 75-year history.

The ABT announced many promotions on Tuesday, but this is by far the most significant one of them all, eliminating another barrier for dancers of color.

Now 32, Copeland joined the company fourteen years ago in 2001, becoming a soloist in 2007. One of her primary goals was to become the first black woman to be named a principal dancer at the company.

“My fears are that it could be another two decades before another black woman is in the position that I hold with an elite ballet company,” she wrote in her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” published in 2014. “That if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”

Copeland took that goal, and responsibility to heart, garnering more attention and praise for her accomplishments, skill and dreams. Despite the criticisms- she didn’t have the right skin color, she didn’t have the right body type, she was too curvy, too muscular- she persevered and succeeded, eventually being named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people last year and earning a spot as one of the five covers for the issue. Her fame continued to grow and so did her fan base, the New York Times stating “her performances became events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on.”

Her career parallels that of another trailblazer in a sport not traditionally thought of for Black athletes, Serena Williams and tennis. Her training, performance, skill and records speak to their greatness, and their acceptance as pioneers in their respective careers is something they take very seriously and to heart.

It’s no wonder she was the first African-American dancer to secure the lead role in ABT’s production of “Swan Lake, and fans were not the only ones who took notice and began to flock to see her perform. 

Brands like Under Armour recognized her talent, impact, significance and position. The company featured her as one of the primary faces in their “I Will What I Want” campaign, generating over four million views on YouTube- in one week!

Under Armour gave their star a big congratulations through Twitter on Tuesday to celebrate the announcement:

The announcement was also posted to her Instagram account, where you can see the emotion permeate through her face when the news was revealed.

Misty Copeland is a role model to many and with this latest news, her status, reputation and responsibilities have become even bigger. But after an almost 20 year career in the field, Misty is more than capable of handling the expanded responsibility of being recognized as the first African-American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. 

Congratulations to you Misty!

For more on Misty Copeland and her appointment as principal dancer, read here.