Misty Copeland. Picture: Supplied
Misty Copeland. Picture: Supplied
Misty Copeland. Picture: Supplied
Misty Copeland. Picture: Supplied

The National School of Arts’ annual festival of the arts began on Tuesday, with a number of theatre works, film screenings and the NSA’s annual hall performances.

One of the films that will be screened at the festival is the tale of Misty Copeland in A Ballerina’s Tale – The Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland.

“You can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed,” is a quote that many young dance hopefuls would want to resonate with as they watch the film.

It tells the story of Misty Copeland, an African American ballet dancer, whose determination and talent as a dancer pushed her through the ranks to become the first African American prima ballerina (principal dancer) in the American Ballet Theatre.

Misty Copeland’s story is that of inspiration, displaying her determination to push through the ranks and demystify the stereotypes surrounding African American dancers and the world of ballet.

Directed by Nelson George, the film follows Copeland’s journey to become a ballerina, while trying to overcome the obstacles of racism, her career-threatening surgeries and injuries, sexism as well as fierce competition from other ballet dancers.

Copeland’s story ultimately becomes a beacon of hope for young African dancers who wish to excel and reach the level of dancing and performance that Copeland has reached.

The film almost comes across as a fairytale, in which Copeland is the protagonist and other characters in the film, such as Raven and the American Ballet Theatre, are the antagonists, but what the film fails to show viewers is who Misty Copeland is. 

The film serves the dictionary definition of a biography, beginning with Copeland’s childhood as one of six children in San Diego, who won dance competitions as a teenager before moving to New York City to pursue her dance career at the age of 17. 

The film features a number of commentators who speak on their interactions with Copeland, as well as what her presence meant in the American Ballet Theatre and how it showed up the lack of African, Asian or Latin representation.

The film also depicts Copeland’s rise to prima ballerina through her performances in The Firebird, and her history-making performance as Odette in Swan Lake.

An interesting scene in the film would be the interaction between Copeland and Raven Wilkinson, a black ballerina  who performed for Russian and Dutch Ballet theatres. 

The conversation between the two ballet dancers is an enlightening one, because of their ground-breaking performances, and how the two of them add emotion to the world of ballet from different perspectives.

* A  Ballerina’s Tale – the Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland is being screened at the Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre, from March 7 to 11.

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