Misty Copeland on Finding Your Voice


Misty Copeland

Resilience. Strength. Grace.


All characteristics of premier athlete and of barrier-breaker, Misty Copeland. Despite being told her form didn't match historically accepted ballet techniques and that she was too athletic, Misty redefined what it means to be a ballerina.

Misty Copeland is the first black female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater.

She recently spoke with Susan Jaffe, Dean of Dance at the UNC School of the Arts in Chapel Hill, NC, to share her experiences and how she found her voice through her art.

Here are our five favorite takeaways from their conversation.

  1. Evaluate the source of comments and opinions, and then decide how much weight they deserve. Negative comments might have derailed Misty's love of ballet, but instead, she chose carefully to whom she would listen and discovered the wisdom of listening to herself.
  2. Mentors play a significant role. Mentors helped guide Misty through challenges and provided the support network needed for success. Her first dance teacher, Cindy Bradley, was instrumental in setting Misty on the course that would shape her future.
  3. Resilience is the attitude you use to overcome challenges. It's not enough to keep trying, you have to see setbacks and failures for what they are: opportunities to learn and grow. It can be applied to how you rebound from a bad practice - you choose to focus on what went wrong, or you decide to focus on how you can do better.
  4. Love who you are because that is the source of your strength. Misty loves her muscular body, and it's what won over critics. What most saw, in the early days, as a negative, she turned into an asset.
  5. Keep it simple, and it will inform how you control your body (and mind.) When asked how she keeps her upper body so still, Misty shared her philosophy to keep it simple and to not add anything unnecessary to a move. This dance tip can be applied to any sport and really, to any part of our lives. 

With these reflections, two more words come to mind when describing Misty Copeland.

Intelligence. Wisdom. 

Celebrating its 15th season, Carolina Performing Arts is amplifying the creative leadership of women through performances and art. Check out their schedule for upcoming events. (Keeping with ballet, Wendy Whelan is on the schedule!)

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