Misty Copeland has officially been promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater after the retirement of Julie Kent.
Copeland, who is 32-years-old, is the first African-American principal ballerina in all of the 75 years that the company has been around.
Before Copeland joined the American Ballet Theater in 2001, the only black principal dancer was Desmond Richardson who started with the company in 1997. Copeland was promoted to soloist in 2007 and critics have been discussing her promotion to principal dancer for years. Most notably, there was talk of the promotion in 2012 after a stunning lead performance by Copeland in Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” but the discussion stopped when the ballerina was injured.
Just last week Copeland starred in American Ballet Theater’s “Swan Lake” at the Metropolitan Opera House, where she received several rounds of applause throughout the show that almost halted its continuation.
There was even a huge crowd outside of the stage door, which led Copeland to get emotional as she thanked everybody for the support claiming, “it’s such a special day for me, and for so many people who have come before me.”
Of course, she realizes that this promotion is important for so many who will come after her, as well. Back in April, Copeland even told TIME magazine, “I had never seen a ballerina who looked like me before.”
She explained that other black ballerinas, including Raven Wilkinson, pushed her to “try and open up doors for the history of African American ballerinas” and to “be a vessel for all those brown ballerinas who have come before.”
Three other dancers were promoted to the principal level. Stella Abrera from within the American Ballet Theater, plus Maria Kochetkova and Alban Lendorf who previously danced at other companies.
The New York Times claimed that when Copeland occupied the lead role in a performance, “her performances became events, drawing large, diverse, enthusiastic crowds to cheer her on,” so we cannot wait to see what happens now that she’s a principal dancer!