Misty Copeland Launches ‘Be Bold’ Initiative to Improve Diversity in Ballet
Professional Black ballerina Misty Copeland has been on hiatus since December 2019, but after giving birth to her son this year, she is ready to get back into the world of performing arts with some new ideas for the upcoming generation of young underrepresented dancers.
Copeland announced her Be Bold initiative, a new after-school dance program structured for Black and Latino students that will take place at two Boys and Girls Clubs in New York City. Copeland’s initiative follows a similar mission to give back to the community by saluting the Boys and Girls Club for offering her access to free ballet classes when she was younger. Children between the ages of eight and 10 years old will be able to participate in the 12-week dance program, which will provide training in ballet, music, and health, along with tutoring and mentoring sessions.
“It’s so important for me to give back to the community, as well as to show people that ballet should be and can be inclusive,” she said in an interview with The New York Times.
“It’s giving opportunities to people that don’t feel that they are included in this elite art form, and offering a new approach to what ballet can look like.”
The Ford Foundation and Goldman Sachs are lead donors for the program, while a collaboration with the National Dance Institute will train teaching artists chosen by Copeland and employees from the Misty Copeland Foundation.
“Misty Copeland has rightfully earned iconic status in the dance world because of her talent, tenacity, and courage to break down barriers in an environment that has long been unwelcoming to Black women,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, in a statement. The Be Bold program will “provide children of all backgrounds with the foundation and opportunity to help pave broader paths to succeed in dance and in life,” he added.
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Professional achievements like being named the first Black woman principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre company back in 2015 and the social justice events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement inspired Copeland’s program. Copeland describes the initiative as “a culmination of my life’s work.”
“It’s giving more agency; it’s giving more voice to the students, which I think is kind of the opposite of what ballet typically is,” she said.
“I really want to hold onto the beautiful aspects of ballet—the discipline, the creativeness—and get rid of those old, stereotypical things that don’t make for a good experience, especially for Black and Brown children.”
According to The New York Times, the Be Bold initiative begins this month, and a return to the stage is in Copeland’s future.