June 30, 2015
The American Ballet Theater promoted ballerina Misty Copeland to principal dancer on Tuesday, making her the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history, The New York Times reports.
Copeland, 32, has danced with the company for more than 14 years, dancing nearly eight as a soloist. Last week, she became the first African-American with the company to star in “Swan Lake” at the Met.
More than a half-century has passed since the pioneering black dancer Arthur Mitchell broke through the color barrier and became a principal dancer at New York City Ballet in 1962, and a generation has elapsed since Lauren Anderson became the first African-American principal at Houston Ballet, in 1990. But City Ballet has had only two black principal dancers in its history, both men: Mr. Mitchell and Albert Evans, who died last week. And Ballet Theater officials said that the company’s only African-American principal dancer before now was Desmond Richardson, who joined as a principal in 1997.
“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,” Copeland wrote in her memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” published last year. “That's if I don’t rise to principal, people will feel I have failed them.”
Read more from The New York Times.