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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Misty Copeland, Ballet Dancer

"I wasn’t aware that what I was attempting to do was rare."

When the idea of taking ballet classes was presented to me, I wasn’t sure what to think. My instructor thought I was a natural because of the way I was able to move my body. I wasn’t so sure. Although I have always had a natural inclination toward music and movement, I had no connection to ballet. My mom often tells the story about one Halloween when I was younger that I wore a ballerina costume and didn’t want to take it off. Yet, when I first started taking lessons, I didn’t initially think it was for me. I was 13 years old and had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time. I wasn’t aware that what I was attempting to do was rare. I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t the norm in ballet. I think that naïveté allowed me to focus on growing.

Ballet was at first overwhelming and scary, but about three months into my lessons, ballet started to feel like I was born to do this. It was at a truly difficult time in my family’s life. So ballet became my safe place and gave me a reason the reason to dream. When I was in the studio, I was able to leave everything outside. Nothing could touch me. For the first time, I believed I was really good at something. Ballet became my everything. It gave me hope, joy, and confidence. It still does today. That’s why I talk about what ballet has done for me every chance I get. I want every child to experience the excitement that I felt when I first came to know how much ballet meant to me.

A Ballerina’s Tale, a documentary about Copeland, was released last fall.