She’s opening the door for future dancers of color!
Misty Copeland recently announced the launch of an after-school program built to bring more diversity to ballet, NPR reports.
The ever so graceful Misty Copeland is a ballet icon, but it’s been a long journey to get there. According to Misty Copeland’s website, ballet was her way out; she discovered the art while living in a shabby motel room and struggling with her five siblings for a place to sleep on the floor. A true prodigy, she was dancing en pointe within three months of taking her first dance class and performing professionally in just over a year, a feat that’s unheard of for any dancer. Copeland has broken many racial barriers along the way. She became the first African-American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theater (ABT) and, with her partner Brooklyn Mack, she was a part of the first Black couple to play the lead roles in a full-length production of “Swan Lake” at the Washington Ballet. She made more ABT history with Calvin Royal III when they made their debuts as Pierrette and Pierrot in “Harlequinade,” becoming the first African-American pair to dance in a lead couple’s role.
According to the Misty Copeland Foundation, there is an immense unmet need for quality afterschool programs in the United States, and the unmet demand disproportionately impacts communities of color. Between cost and access, these low-income families are greatly affected. The 2020 Edition of America After 3PM claims that 58% of Black children and 55% of Latinx children would be enrolled if an after school program were accessible to them. A study done by the After School Alliance stated that for the 2022-2023 school year, an additional hurdle for after-school programs is recruiting and retaining qualified employees. The art of dance has been proven to be a great cognitive and social-emotional skill builder. The National Dance Education Organization showed that dance can help and improve abilities like understanding of abstract geometric concepts and problem-solving; persistence and discipline toward goals; attention; recall; making connections between new and past learning; social interaction and emotional well-being; conflict resolution that offers self-expression, acceptance, empathy; non-verbal communication and language skills for ESL and special needs students.
Now, Copeland is taking matters into her own hands. She wants to give children the same opportunities she received in her upbringing at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club with the launching of her “BE BOLD” after school program. The famous dancer was able to launch this program with the help of many dance organizations and dance professionals with the intentions of making ballet accessible, affordable and fun for children of color. This initiative offers a new approach to after school dance education through music education, health and wellness, mentoring, tutoring, and introductory ballet lessons while also providing new job opportunities for adults.
The program began this fall as a bi-weekly, twelve-week program in partnership with the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club in New York City. It will soon be offered at other local Boys & Girls Clubs and similar community-based, child-serving sites. The program instructors will come from all backgrounds like current or former dancers or athletes, child development professionals, recent college graduates, or come from other professional backgrounds. They will be put through various training and professional development courses provided by the NDI Collaborative for Teaching and Learning and the professional development center of the National Dance Institute. Chosen instructors will also receive ongoing support and mentorship from the Misty Copeland Foundation.
Thank you, Misty! We look forward to seeing the talent this program produces.
Photos: Madison Square Garden/Misty Copeland Foundation/Drew Gurian