Sometime around noon on Wednesday I stepped off the R train and ran up into the sunny streets of SoHo. My goal: to procure a copy of Misty Copeland’s memoir A Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina.
My cousin had raved about the book on Facebook and Instagram, I had yet to hear anything negative about it and given my ballet-nerdom it ended up on my summer reading list. However, when the book was dropped into my hands, my first reaction was its weight, or rather, the lack there of.
The book was very light and when I flipped through the pages, taking in that coveted “fresh book” smell, I also noted how large the font was. I felt like I was about to read some middle school aged YA novel.
At seven in the evening I opened the book and by one the next morning I closed it. I read her memoir in practically one sitting taking into consideration underground transfers, popping open a beer to enjoy out on the fire escape and a minor texting conversation break.
The book, the memoir, was very easy to read. It was if she were giving one long interview. I imagined her voice in my head (I’ve met her twice) and felt giddy with excitement as she weaved the ballet terms into her narrative that I was once familiar with. Likewise, our similarities jumped from the page ranging from Kansas City and drill team experiences to the fact that we both have multiple father figures in our lives. But our similarities stop there, which I’m ok with. After all, she didn’t live the charmed life that ballerinas often experience.
Learning of all the struggles, both internal and external, and realizing how open and willing she is to share her story and encourage those who’d otherwise not have access to the ballet world astounds me.
The opening pages of the book describe her debut as Firebird at Lincoln Center. As the description of the night unfolds I found that I too shared the same memories, only, I was on the other side of that gold curtain. It was surreal, reading her thought process as the crowd filled beyond the stage and knowing that I was a part of that same crowd.
Last Friday I saw Misty perform as Swanhilda in ABT’s production of Coppelia and watching her move across the stage reminded me of what she sprinkles throughout her book, “This is for the little brown girls.”
Growing up in white, suburban Dallas it was rare to see non-porcelain skinned girls beside me as I practiced at the barre or performed a combination across the floor. I was the only one in my class not to be picked as Clara in The Nutcracker, and when puberty and genetics kicked in during my freshman year of high school I knew, mentally, that I wouldn’t survive in the image obsessed world of ballet. Which was fine by me, because I found that I enjoyed the flash and strength that drill team had to offer…
I suppose what I really want to say is, thank you Misty. Thank you for taking it upon yourself to be an advocate for little brown girls across the world who aspire to be ballerina’s dancing on the world’s stages. Thank you for leading by example and grace. Thank you for writing this book and letting us in and educating us on what happens before the curtain is pulled open.
Next, I’m to see Julie Kent in Cinderella next week and I can hardly wait!
I wrote about seeing Misty in Coppelia over on Cures for Curiosity if you want to read that too ;D