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Meeting Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater principal ballerina

Misty Copeland, center, with Kidsday reporters, from left,

Misty Copeland, center, with Kidsday reporters, from left, Annelisa Boise, Karolyna Roman, Francheska St. Hilaire, and Morgan O'Donoghue at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

Have you ever been to Lincoln Center? We went recently and had a great experience, and also got to meet Misty Copeland, which was such a thrill.

Misty has such an interesting life! She is a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. That means that she dances the leads in some of the ballets they perform. She was the first African-American principal ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre. Before that she was also a dancer for the singer Prince.

Misty Copeland did not start dancing until she was 13. She took a dance class at the Boys and Girls Club where she lived. It was there that it was recognized she really had talent. A woman named Cindy Bradley became Misty’s mentor and helped her learn all about ballet. She started to work for the ABT as a dancer in its corps de ballet in 2001. By 2007 she was a soloist, and in 2015 she became a principal dancer. Misty has also written books, appeared on TV and has been a spokesperson for many products.

Before we met her, we had a tour around the outside and inside of Lincoln Center. There were fountains outside the building. One fountain had a big sculpture of some type of odd-shaped rocks. We threw a penny in the water for good luck! Next, we stood in front of the Metropolitan Opera House, which had posters of all the ballets they put on there. Misty was in one of them.

When you walk into the Metroplitan Opera House, there is a grand staircase that looks like it came from a castle or a mansion. Almost every hall was red velvet. In the middle of the staircase was the most beautiful chandelier. It was very glamorous and had little mini crystal balls that were beautiful. There were also costumes in cases that came from different shows. They were very fancy. Misty is so lucky to work here because that place is huge and beautiful.

After our tour, we were lucky enough to go into the theater to see Misty practice. In the first performance the men were pretending to lift up the women, but in the second run of the same ballet the men actually lifted them. It was amazing to be in the theater with only a few people. They ran through the whole ballet, twice. Misty had on a vest and warm-up clothes in the first run, but in the second she wore leggings and a short shirt. She danced with pointe shoes.

When we met Misty we were able to ask her many questions. She said that she started dancing by first being on a drill team. Her coach saw her ability and told her to take the ballet class at the Boys and Girls Club. We asked her what kept her positive throughout her life and she said that dance really made her happy when she discovered it. She wants people to be happy watching her.

We asked her if she had any special memories of dancing with Prince and she told us a story about sharing a dressing room with him and they were both putting on mascara at the same time. She thought to herself, “Wow, I’m putting on makeup with Prince.” He gave her a lip gloss that she still has! She still seemed sad that Prince passed away.

We asked her if she ever had stage fright and Misty said no. She did say that if you had called on her to read in class, it would have been more stressful, but when she went on stage it was as if no one else was there because the audience was invisible in the dark and she could just dance and be focused and present. She also said that being an African-American principal dancer gives her the opportunity to bring ballet to people who might never have seen it before.

We also asked if she has any advice for young dancers and she said that you get good by working hard and that it is OK to be yourself. She even taught us a ballet step after our interview.

The experience was not like anything we had done before. We would definitely recommend you go to the ballet at Lincoln Center. You will be amazed by all there is to see there. We really enjoyed our stay and will always remember it and the time we spent with Misty Copeland.

For more on the American Ballet Theatre, go online to metopera.org/ABT/2018

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Copeland’s role in the ABT. It also incorrectly stated she was the first African-American principal ballerina in any American dance company.

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