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Prince and pointe shoes: ABT soloist dishes about video

May 2, 2009 | 10:00 am


Prince - Crimson and Clover (Official Video) by Lemongol

You might call Misty Copeland a viral ballerina. Born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Southern California, the 26-year old American Ballet Theater soloist has become an Internet hottie, the subject of all sorts of bloggery -- some adoring, some catty -- about her rocket ride to prominence since she began her training at the shockingly advanced age (by dance standards) of 13.

One recent meow: "When I hear her name one more time in one of these You Can Do Anything Your Heart Desires replies, I am going to scream," grumbles the disgruntled "tutuless" on the website dance.net during a rant on why you shouldn't expect to be a famous ballet dancer if you start out too turned-in, too tubby or too late.

Copeland, who studied at at the San Pedro Dance Center (later the Lauridsen Ballet Centre in Torrance), tells Culture Monster that she doesn't put much stock in all the chatter: "It’s just not something that I really pay much attention to, I don’t know. I think it’s silly, and it’s not something that lasts." She laughs. "It’s funny."

Culture Monster admits to delight in giving "tutuless" yet another reason to spit a hairball: Copeland (oh, did we mention that she was named best dancer in Southern California in the Music Center's prestigious Spotlight Awards in 1998?) was tapped to perform with Prince in his recent psychedelic video for his remake of the 1960s Tommy James and the Shondells hit "Crimson and Clover."  The video was shown last week on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" during Prince's first appearance on the program in five years.

 

Misty Copeland "I got a random call one day from someone asking if it was OK to pass along my phone number to him," Copeland said.  "When we spoke, he just told me he was a huge fan of mine, and he really wanted me to be in his music video. I asked him how he knew about me, and he was kind of brief about it, but just kind of said [that] word gets around. ... It was very inspiring."

Just days after the call in early March, Prince flew Copeland to Los Angeles for the shoot. "I was only in L.A. for two days, and we shot the video in probably two hours, and the next morning I got back on the plane and went back to New York," Copeland said. The video, she added, is "not at all what I expected, but I love it. I think it’s really cool; it’s just amazing to be a part of something with someone who is such a legend and someone I grew up listening to."

She added that the Artist Usually Known As Odd is actually a very nice person. "He’s such great person, very giving, great guy," she says. "He was very, very sweet and down to earth, and it was such an honor just to work with him." 

Although it all happened in a whirlwind, Copeland says she knew the well-researched Prince wanted a ballerina, not a break dancer: "I wasn’t going to go out there and be a hip-hop dancer or something; he was pretty clear that he was a fan of me for my talent and what I do, so I knew that I was going to be out there dancing on pointe."

Copeland is the only African American ballerina to become a soloist with New York City's ABT in two decades; like her sudden explosion of Internet fame, it's not a fact that usually occupies her thoughts.

"It’s definitely not something that occurred to me when I was growing up; it’s not something that was brought to my attention unit I joined the company. I wasn’t really aware that there weren’t too many people around me that looked like me," Copeland said. " But it’s definitely been a struggle, and I’m going to keep fighting."

She added, "This world, the classical ballet world, is so different from the world -- it's all about tradition, and people are used to seeing a certain thing.  And that’s not an African American woman."

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Misty Copeland. Credit: Gene Schiavone. 

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