The first African American female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Misty Copeland, will visit UC Riverside to present a free public lecture on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the University Theatre. Admission will be based on a first come, first served basis. Line-up begins at 5 p.m., doors will open at 6 p.m. and the lecture begins at 7 p.m. Free parking will be available in Lot 6.
Copeland’s appearance has been more than a year in the making, said Ken Simons, the director of African Student Programs, who reached out to the dancer’s agent in September 2014.
“I have been looking forward to bringing Misty to UCR for quite some time. It’s great to have our co-sponsors share this epic moment in timewith our campus and community,” said Simons. “Not often do we witness something that is a global first, and the UCR community will have that rare opportunity to see an international icon at the top of her profession. Misty drew a line in her own sand, leaped over insurmountable adversity and landed on greatness!”
A rising star in the ballet world, Copeland gained notice in 2007 when she became ABT’s first African American female soloist (a rank below principal dancer) in 20 years. In 2014, she was featured in an Under Armour ad that went viral, gaining over 9 million views to date, and in April 2015 Time Magazine named her one of the “100 most influential people.” But perhaps she is best known for being the first African American female promoted to principal dancer at ABT this past June. Even as her promotion was celebrated, it raised all-too-familiar questions about why African American dancers, particularly women, remain so underrepresented at top ballet companies in the 21st century, despite the work of pioneering black dancers who broke racial barriers in the past, said Anthea Kraut, chair of the dance department at UCR.
“Misty Copeland is a role model to many, not only because of her phenomenal dancing but also for overcoming so many obstacles and for challenging ideas about what a ballerina should look like,” said Kraut. “Her presence at UCR will energize all dancers to pursue their dreams and to speak out against racial stereotypes.”
Xiomora Forbes, a Ph.D. student in critical dance studies, agreed.
“I’m excited to have Misty Copeland come to UCR and share her experiences with navigating the ballet world. I’ve always looked up to her because she started ballet late and because she never let anyone stop her from reaching her goals. It is an honor to have her on campus with us,” Forbes explained.
The visit is being coordinated by UCR’s African Student Programs and supported by the Highlander Empowerment Referendum. Co-sponsors of the event include the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Dance, Department of Athletics, Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production, and the Voice News.
The trailer of “A Ballerina’s Tale,” a documentary about Copeland, will be played prior to the talk, and there will be a performance by Bre Dance Studio in Riverside. Copeland will perform in “The Nutcracker” at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Hall on December 16 and 19.