Growing up, I was the kid who was involved in everything. I ran track; played soccer, basketball, and volleyball; and was also involved in the performing arts, dancing, taking musical theater classes, and playing the piano. Naturally, I migrated towards sports but some of my fondest memories revolve around dance classes and recitals with my best friends.
A few years ago, I felt like I needed a new hobby and decided to find an adult ballet class. I started taking classes and they were hard and slighty nerve-wracking, but that’s what I loved the most. I’m a lifelong student, and being challenged and not instantly good at ballet only made we want to practice and “perfect” my technique even more. Admittedly, I’ve fallen off with classes, which is why when MasterClass told me Misty Copeland, the first African American woman principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, had her very own MasterClass, I jumped on the opportunity to take it! (MasterClass gifted me access to her course but all opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by this gift.)
What Misty Copeland’s MasterClass Is About
I thought the MasterClass would be 100-percent focused on how to be a ballet dancer, covering technique and maybe even giving me a routine to learn and perform for myself, but I was completely wrong. It’s about so much more than ballet technique, which I loved. The MasterClass gives you a deep dive into who Copeland is as a person, an athlete, and a dancer and how she uses ballet as a medium to tell her story and other people’s stories, in addition to creating space for Black people and people of color to feel like they too have a place in an art form that is historically and presently predominately white.
Ballet Technique in Misty Copeland’s MasterClass
As expected, Copeland does cover ballet technique such as barre warmups featuring pliés and tendus, temps liés, ronds de jambes, and more. In addition to covering technique, Copeland performs and deconstructs her Black Swan variation, and you even get to see her do a White Swan Pas de Deux workshop with Calvin Royal III, a soloist for American Ballet Theatre. What I enjoyed about these aspects of the MasterClass were that the tips Copeland gave didn’t just pertain to ballet technique — they were tips that translate to life. As Copeland and Royal III work through the White Swan Pas de Deux, they share how trust, open communication, patience, positive feedback, and vulnerability are vital to dancing but also to navigating life.
She was also candid about returning to ballet post-injury, sharing how she had to start over and relearn movements and focus on the little aspects of her technique to strengthen her muscles and prevent getting injured again. One thing that stuck with me is when she said that you wake up every morning and your body is going to be different, explaining that you have to adjust to whatever condition your body is in. As an athlete and someone who loves to exercise, I think this message is so important for everyone to hear as we can be extremely hard on ourselves.
Copeland also did a choreography workshop with Kyle Abraham, a choreographer and artistic director, and it was cool to watch her in a modern element, moving in a new way, and being comfortable with asking questions about how different steps should look.
Final Thoughts on Misty Copeland’s MasterClass
I thoroughly enjoyed Copeland’s MasterClass, and definitely think if you’re interested in the arts, are inspired by Copeland, or just want to try something new, you should take it. It’s not something to rush through, so take your time to really absorb every lesson. There are a lot of components to this MasterClass, but my favorite had to be watching her in motion and learning the backstory to each step she takes and how much thought and intention she puts into every movement, which appears so effortless.
I also love that she’s constantly learning and constantly trying to improve upon her latest performance and training session. It’s easy to idolize people, but we often forget that no one is perfect and that everyone has their ups and downs. Copeland isn’t afraid to share those moments with us and how she persevered, and that’s what I think makes her MasterClass unique and impactful. Check out the trailer to her MasterClass ahead, along with gorgeous photos of Copeland in motion.