NEW YORK — Misty Copeland, the Missouri-born dancer who has become a forceful voice for diversity in ballet, was named a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre on Tuesday — the first African-American ballerina to achieve that status in the company’s 75-year history.
The company announced the promotion six days after Copeland made her New York debut in the role of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake,” one of the most important roles in a ballerina’s repertoire. The emotional performance ended with Copeland being greeted onstage by trailblazing black ballerinas of earlier generations.
Copeland, 32, has become a celebrity in the past several years, making the cover of Time magazine as one of the most influential figures of 2015, and writing a best-selling memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” in which she recounted the challenges she faced on the road to her hard-won perch in ballet — and which has been optioned for a movie. She also was the subject of a documentary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Copeland also was featured in a popular ad for Under Armour sportswear that shows her leaping and spinning in a studio, while a narrator recounts some of the negative feedback she received as a youngster, when she was told she had the wrong body for ballet and had started too late — at 13.
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