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Sunday 15 September 2019

Art forms that don’t embrace diversity are unsustainable, says Misty Copeland

The world’s most famous black ballerina said the arts cannot grow without inclusivity.

Misty Copeland has a starring role in the new Disney film The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (Disney)
Misty Copeland has a starring role in the new Disney film The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (Disney)

By Laura Harding, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Art forms that do not embrace diversity are unsustainable, the world’s leading black ballerina has said.

Misty Copeland made history when she became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history.

She now has a starring role in the new Disney film The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, in which she performs two ballet solos, and said she is very aware her inclusion in the film will have an impact on its young audience.

She told the Press Association: “I am very conscious of it, I think to be first of all, just to be considered and given an opportunity to be in a Disney film, let alone to be a black ballerina representing ballet in a film that so many people will see that maybe don’t feel comfortable or welcome in a theatre like the Metropolitan Opera House.

“But being in a movie theatre, that is something everyone feels comfortable doing and seeing, so I completely understand the power that in the future so many will grow up seeing a brown ballerina and just think that is normal, that is what a ballerina looks like and that is amazing.”

Copeland said she hopes to introduce the art form to people who have never seen it before, adding: “That is so much a part of what my responsibility, my purpose, my mission has always been, not just to be the representation for diversity or to bring diversity to classical dance, but also to bring ballet to more people.

“That means so much to me. I don’t think any art form can be sustainable or can grow if there isn’t diversity and representation and if every community is not allowed to be a part of it.”

Discussing if she has made it easier for other ballerinas from diverse backgrounds, she said: “It’s such a long process and journey, something like that can’t just be done with one person and I understand that.

“I think the power of people being able to simply see me is maybe not consciously showing other young people that no matter if they want to be a ballerina or whatever they want to be, that you can look like and be anyone and come from any community or background and be able to dream and succeed.”

However, Copeland said she is in no doubt that more pressure and responsibility is put on black athletes.

“It’s a discussion I’ve had back and forth with my husband, it’s such a different responsibility and pressure as an athlete and I feel you clearly have to be aware of things as an African American.

“You have a very different experience and I think a lot more is expected of you and you have a lot more pressure.

“But for me, I wouldn’t put myself in a position or speak and have a voice about something I wasn’t passionate about or that I didn’t feel that I had the experience or knowledge to share.

“So I feel like I’ve put myself in this position, this is a responsibility that I’ve chosen to take on because I know how important it is.

“It was so important and powerful for me to see brown ballerinas, it gave me a sense of that’s possible.”

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is released in UK cinemas on November 2.

PA Media

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