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Groundbreaking Ballet Star Misty Copeland to Teach a Master Class and Receive an Honorary Degree

Posted 11/03/2014
Posted by David Isgur

Misty Copeland, who has become an inspiration to young girls and others for overcoming numerous obstacles to become the first black ballerina in two decades to be a soloist at the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), will be in the University of Hartford’s Hartt School dance studios on Monday afternoon, Nov. 3, to teach a master class for Hartt dance students. Copeland will also be presented with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the University.

Misty Copeland, 32, has performed some of the most coveted and challenging roles in classical ballet. A few days before starting rehearsals this year for the lead in Swan Lake with ABT, she was featured in a commercial for Under Armour that has gone viral with more than six million views on YouTube ( Copeland has become an advocate for opening up ballet to minorities and the underprivileged and has come to represent the future of ballet in America: more modern, inclusive, and elastic.

In addition to working with the students and offering them practical advice, Copeland will be signing copies of her bestselling autobiography, A Life in Motion.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, Calif., Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late (by ballet standards) age of thirteen. At fifteen, she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre's Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT's National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Copeland joined ABT's Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in 2007, made history by becoming its second African American female soloist and first in two decades.

In 2008, Copeland was honored with the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, a two-year fellowship awarded to young artists who exhibit extraordinary talent providing them additional resources in order to attain their full potential.

Performing a variety of classical and contemporary roles, one of Copeland’s most important roles was performing the title role of “The Firebird” in Firebird, created for her in 2012 with new choreography by much sought after choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In September 2014, she made history as the first black woman to perform the lead role of Odette/Odile with American Ballet Theatre in Swan Lake during the company’s first ever tour to Australia. And in December 2014, she is slated to perform the lead role of Clara in American Ballet Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker.

Copeland has been featured in numerous publications and television programs. She was honored with an induction into the Boys & Girls Club National Hall of Fame in May 2012 and received the “Breakthrough Award” from the Council of Urban Professionals in April 2012. She was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in June 2013. She received the Young, Gifted & Black honor at the 2013 Black Girls Rock! Awards. Her endorsements past and present include American Express, COACH, Diet Dr. Pepper, BlackBerry, Proactiv, Payless, Capezio, Bloch International, Sansha, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and LaVazza Coffee. In 2014, Under Armour announced Copeland as one of the new faces of its women’s line.

She was handpicked by Prince to star in his “Crimson and Clover” video and was Special Guest Artist at his concert in Nice, France and his “Welcome 2 America” tour in 2010.

Copeland’s passion is giving back. She has worked with many charitable organizations and is very passionate about giving of her time to work with and mentor young girls and boys. In 2014, President Obama appointed Copeland to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.

Copeland is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Life in Motion, co-written with award-winning journalist and author Charisse Jones, which was published March 2014. She has a picture book titled Firebird done in collaboration with award-winning illustrator and author Christopher Myers, published in September 2014. Her goal is to become the first African American female principal at American Ballet Theatre.