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Misty Copeland - Divided Views

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Personally, sidwich, I don't think your Elvis comparison holds up. He brought something to middle America that was new to them. Americans were not exposed to people like Chuck Berry on the Ed Sullivan show and the other few mainstream venues that existed.

And by middle America you mean white Americans? So you're saying that Elvis Presley was important because he brought something that already existed to people of his race which was not available to them previously? Is that correct? And why do you think someone like Chuck Berry did not go on the Ed Sullivan Show and Elvis Presley was able to be the messenger of what was until then almost exclusively a black-dominated genre of music?

And if I'm following you correctly, does the comparison fail because it happens that Elvis Presley's group happens to be the majority race (white) and not the minority group (African-American like Copeland)? Or is that ballet is something that IS available to African-American families, so Copeland isn't bringing anything new to them?

Or perhaps a more apt comparison is Jackie Robinson. If you look at Jackie Robinson's on field performance as a baseball player, the numbers are very good. But there have been much more accomplished players with much longer careers. Even in comparison to other Negro League players of the time, there were more talented players, more famous players, players with more ability, etc.

Looking purely at his on field performance, there is certainly no reason for him to be the towering figure in baseball that he is. His number is retired throughout baseball, there is a day in his name where all players wear his number in his honor, there's a foundation in his name, etc.

Would you say that he too is exceptional because of his race rather than anything else?

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As far as Copeland being exceptional - an African-American woman who is a soloist in a major ballet company makes her exceptional in terms of race. I think the discussion has to do with why she is cast in a role that seems beyond her, when others are not afforded that opportunity. Why, at the age of 30, is an AD suddenly casting her in Swan Lake? The answer is ticket sales. Unfortunately, IMO those ticket sales have nothing to do with putting the best possible product on stage, and will not translate into expanding the audience. Others will disagree and say that an African American woman in Swan Lake will create an audience that will come back again and again. That's not the way I see it. I know so many people of different races and ages that fell in love with ballet upon seeing Agon at NYCB, regardless of the cast.

I'm sorry. I must not be following you again. Can you please clarify how:

1. Misty Copeland translates into increased ticket sales,

2. Those increased ticket sales do not translate into expanded audiences, AND

3. People of all different races and ages fall in love upon seeing ballets like Agon regardless of cast.

Because if Copeland sells more tickets than other dancers where are those ticket sales coming from? As far as I understand it, if sales numbers increase that must mean either 1) more people are buying tickets, or 2) current ticket buyers buying multiple tickets. (Personally, I don't think current ticket buyers are buying tickets just to let them go empty.)

And if people of all different races and ages fall in love with ballet regardless of cast, I would think that some of those increased ticket sales would translate into some group of people falling in love with ballet and remaining ballet-goers who go to multiple performances.

As I said before, Copeland is not a dancer I really particularly enjoy seeing. I certainly don't go out of my way to see her at a performance. But it's to a certain (limited) extent, it's like Dancing With the Stars. DWTS is not a good example of ballroom/latin dancing. Half of the things out of the judges mouths don't make any sense. Some of the choreography is terrible. It promote A LOT of questionable technique. It frustrates me quite a bit. But does it expose Americans to dance? Yes. Does it expose Americans to good dance? Sometimes. Is it a positive that people like Emmitt Smith, Kurt Warner and Donald Driver can show Americans that manly men can enjoy dance and be good at it? Absolutely.

Did dance participation in America spike in the wake of the show? No question. So I consider it net positive.

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Whenever the arts are expanded to a wider audience, people complain that the art form is being degraded.

Were Lil' Buck's projects with Yo-Yo Ma and City Ballet really necessary? Nope. Were they successful artistically? No. But did they cause the worlds of ballet and classical music irreparable harm? I don't think so.

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Michaela DePrince is also cashing in on her "uniqueness" in a traditionally fair-skinned world. Since she joined The Dutch National Ballet, she's done interviews, photo spreads and has a book coming out that was co-written with her mum.

People are fascinated because she's a war orphan, she's a Jewish American Princess by way of adoption and she's a dark-skinned black woman in a world of delicate white swans. And although she seems to have improved a great deal in the last year in the Dutch Junior Company, her quality as a dancer is an almost an afterthought when compared to her tale of hard luck in her toddler years.

Is it fair that she gets all this attention before she's accomplished much professionally?

Does a major backlash await her?

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I don't know anything about Misty Copeland's ability to dance Swan Lake but I saw her in Don Quixote on May 14--I was sitting in row E center orchestra--and I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was a street dancer, and although surrounded by other dancers, she had so much charisma, she commanded the stage. I have seen ABT principal dancers who have great technique but no personality, who do not project to the audience. They put me to sleep. Misty has an amazing ability to connect with the audience, and I value that. It's what makes the performance exhilarating to me. I overlook what other people are calling her "self-promotion" in order to enjoy the experience of being moved by her performance.

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Misty is indeed a polarizing figure. Her value as a dancer is spoken about in such extremes that it's hard to believe people are talking about the same person.

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Misty is indeed a polarizing figure. Her value as a dancer is spoken about in such extremes that it's hard to believe people are talking about the same person.

Her value as a dancer can only be determined by people who have seen her dance. Thank you, CTballetfan, for your opinion.

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But that's my point. You find wildly different views from people who have seen her dance.

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But that's my point. You find wildly different views from people who have seen her dance.

I've seen Copeland dance a lot in her time at ABT, and I think the quality and especially the artistry of her dancing has varied a lot from role to role. She's not the most versatile dancer (at least within ABT's repertoire), and some roles just haven't been a great fit for her. I was very excited by her Princess Florine both times she danced it in ABT's most recent run of Sleeping Beauty. It really felt like a breakthrough moment for her, especially since it showed that she could shine in a classical role, albeit a more minor one. But then again, I haven't seen her dance a peasant pas de trois that was anything but proficient. With with a dancer like Gorak, I feel as if I've been able to see an underlying beauty and grace in all his dancing -- no matter which soloist role he is inhabits -- whereas with Copeland, she really needs the right role to flatter her particular strengths as a dancer. Otherwise she can look rather ho-hum or not quite up the challenges of classical ballet (especially in technically demanding roles like Gamzatti).

When you watch the commercials or view the photo shoots of Copeland, she looks so incredibly powerful, in control and confident that it seems like she could conquer any role. I truly believe she's powerful, strong, determined...I buy all of that. Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily translate into beautiful dancing. I could care less that her legs are unconventionally muscular (for a ballerina) or that her skin isn't lily white. What I care about is that her arms are among the least expressive of any ABT soloist and that she's probably among the least convincing in the acting department. Has any interview, commercial, etc. focused on Copeland's depth as an artist? What would they reveal if they did so?

Seeing Copeland cast as O/O was really a shock not because she doesn't "deserve" it or because she hasn't worked hard enough, but rather because it seems so against the grain of what she offers as a dancer. That said, part of me would like to see what she can do with the role. She's certainly not one to fit the traditional mold of O/O. Can she be one of the very, very few to redefine such an iconic role? I simply don't think she has the skill set and artistic depth to do so, but I await reports from down under.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/business/media/under-armour-heads-off-the-sidelines-for-a-campaign-aimed-at-women.html#

This is an article from the NY Times about Misty's latest endorsement deal with an underwear company.

Here's the link to her new TV commercial

http://jezebel.com/misty-copelands-new-under-armour-ad-is-a-testament-to-p-1613929168

Just to clarify, Under Armour isn't an "underwear company." it's athletic wear. It's akin to Nike or adidas. It's proven to be a major athletic brand. We actually covered the signing:

http://espn.go.com/espnw/athletes-life/article/11291626/espnw-why-armour-banking-ballerina-misty-copeland

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If Copeland falls on her face while dancing O/O, that's on her. I've never been under the illusion that she's a caramel-colored Guillem or Ferri. Heck, I don't think she's a caramel-colored Kent or Murphy. But I just don't think it's so outrageous that after 7 years as a soloist, she's being given a chance to dance a major role. Even if she's a mediocre dancer in the eyes of many.

I also don't think that her getting one chance is going to hold Sara or Stella back. If they haven't been given more classical leads or haven't been promoted to principal after all this time, it's got nothing to do with Misty's presence. That's on McKenzie and his import-a-star ways.

Finally, It may drive many balletomanes mad, but anomalies draw interest. Misty is an anomalie.

I'd love it if there were other, less controversial black women in senior positions at major companies to cheer on, but there aren't. Heck there are barely any black women in any ranks at any companies, for various reason.

I'm hoping the Bolshoi School - trained Precious Adams rises quickly and high at ENB. But then, she's just one woman. As long as there are so few black women in the pipeline, the chances of any of them making it to the top remains low.

The fewer black women that are seen in lead roles, the fewer role models there are for black girls. And the cycle goes on.

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As I am also from a minority, but can't identify with the idea of having a "role model" that has the same physique and/or skin colour as myself, I wonder: Is colour really always the main aspect that draws young girls to a certain person as a role model? Is it necessary that I see someone looking like myself on a stage? It surely is something that stands out and something you can identify immediately, sure, I get that. But usually there is more information circulating and which is available to people if you have a slight interest in ballet and ballet dancers.

For example: Being from a rural area with fewer training facilities, I can look up to a role model who's from the same region and made it despite the relative hardships, as opposed to someone who's from a big city and has lots of excellent schools to choose from right from the beginning. Or economically weak families in general. Or orphans. Or whatever else. There are so many different aspects in a person that can truly inspire me. But it seems like the only thing that it all comes down to in internet discussions is colour. And everything else seems to disappear.

Is it really because colour is immediately visible right at first sight? Is it because colour is just so much more important to many people when it comes to choosing a role model than it is to me?

I get that maybe I can assume there are racist structures behind something if there aren't any dancers of colour and therefore I feel discouraged to try it in that certain field. But that in my eyes is something different from just having role models available.

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I think that in a visual medium like dance, role models of the same color take on more importance than in other art forms.

Obviously, the first American blacks to succeed at anything from which they were traditionally barred - whether it was pilot Bessie Smith, physician Rebecca Crumpler, or businesswoman C.J. Walker - had to do so without role models that looked like them.

But ballet is very hard, even for white women who look like Blake Lively. Women of color and particularly women of color who stand out because their skin is darker have an added obstacle.

That doesn't mean that some dark-skinned women don't keep trying. But it doesn't strike me as strange that it would be discouraging.

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I was just wondering because in my personal experience, I don't encounter this idea of role models who have the same skin colour, and therefore it was striking me as strange that it is such a big topic elsewhere, and in internet debates as well. That's how I found out about that issue in the first place, even though I myself am part of a darker skinned community as well as part of the "ballet community". Or is it such a subconscious issue that one isn't really aware of it when it happens?

It is true that dance is a visual medium and colour is a visual aspect as well, so I see the connection. Yet the paramount importance of it over everything else is still striking to me. Just because someone has the same skin colour as me, it doesn't mean there is much similarity otherwise. For example, I rather stick to a role model who is an amazing artist on stage despite being rather shy and an introvert because I am like that myself, or anything like that. These are matters where I personally feel a deeper connection than through skin colour. It would be wonderful if there were so many dark skinned ballerinas that you'd naturally also find a person who has more similarities to you than your skin colour of course, but in my eyes, it simply isn't such a strong aspect and there can be other things that are more important when it comes to choosing a role model.

I can imagine it can be very encouraging in a situation in which I encounter racism or discouragement because of my skin colour. Like a teacher telling me I am not suitable for a certain role or to become a ballet dancer even, just because I am dark. In such a case I can look up to a role model. Seeing how she proved everyone wrong, how she made it, how the statements of my teacher simply aren't true. But is this really very common? I don't know, and I hope it isn't. But if it is, then yes, I can understand the importance of role models. But not so much when it simply comes to the "normal" circumstances of ballet.

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Goodness, I just read this. What fabulous news about Misty dancing O/O in Swan Lake in Australia. Congrats!

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I don't think that any of the black women who take on the difficult task of pursuing careers as classical dancers do so because they've seen other black woman do it. The task is just too great. They do it because they love ballet. But they draw strength and a sense of pride from other black women who came before them who managed to have careers when doing so was even more difficult than it is today.

Of course, Identity politics or tribalism or whatever you want to call it, is a bad thing when it's used as a crutch for failure or to hurtfully exclude or make people outside a particular group feel inferior.

But it CAN be benign. It's natural to want to see people from your group do well whether you're rooting for your school football team, pulling for your country's World Cup soccer or Olympic teams or hoping that someone from your home state who's up for an Oscar, wins.

No African Americans would be successful at anything if black role models was the only thing that accounted for their achievements. And as a black woman, my hoping that a black woman reaches the apex of the ballet world, doesn't mean that I've reduced her to being nothing more than her race and ethnicity. It just means I see a rare, but more familiar reflection of myself in her. That's not weird.

And yes, I have seen reflections of myself in non-black performers. In fact most of the artists I identify with are non-black.

When Linsanity hit, I was amused because, frankly, I didn't see why so many Asian Canadians and Asian Americans were so exited. Why would people who are the so-called "model minority," care that this guy was making a splash in the NBA? Wasn't it more impressive that he was a Harvard grad or a proudly devout Christian?

Then I read some columns by Asian American sports writers who said that he was getting folks so exited because his run was so unexpected. It seems that Asian Americans like everyone else, don't like being put in boxes that say they care only about studying medicine or the violin. They want to be free to be as individual as anyone else. That includes jocks in America's most freewheeling major sport.

When you turn a stereotype on it's head, people who are the victims of that stereotype love it.

So many black women who are frequently stereotyped as super athletic, hyper-sexual, and grace-challenged, love it when one of our tribe makes it in the field that is synonymous with feminine grace.

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I was just wondering because in my personal experience, I don't encounter this idea of role models who have the same skin colour, and therefore it was striking me as strange that it is such a big topic elsewhere, and in internet debates as well. That's how I found out about that issue in the first place, even though I myself am part of a darker skinned community as well as part of the "ballet community". Or is it such a subconscious issue that one isn't really aware of it when it happens?

I'm not sure of your particular case, but I think it's a big issue with with race and the dance world because there has been such implicit and at times explicit exclusion of many minorities from the elite strata. For example, the Rockettes for decades explicitly would not hire non-white dancers for the line on the basis that it would ruin the uniformity of their "look." The first Asian Rockette was only hired in the 80s and the first African-American Rockette wasn't hired until late 80s.

So for a long time, dancers would be excluded or held back explicitly on the basis of their race. While I don't think that explicit exclusion exists anymore (at least, I hope it doesn't), it's obvious that it's still extremely rare to see an African-American female dancer with that kind of seniority at an elite company. And I think that that is one element of why African-American girls identify with her.

She also does have a compelling, very unorthodox story, which I think does speak to many young girls and their families who may not come from comfortable middle to upper-middle class means: unfortunate family situation, started late and started elite training very late, nontraditional ballet body, etc.

For comparison, here's the way Gillian Murphys ABT bio starts:

After training in South Carolina as a member of the Columbia City Ballet, she continued her studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Under the tutelage of Melissa Hayden she danced principal roles in several of the school's ballet productions including The Nutcracker and George Balanchine'sConcerto Barocco, Western Symphony, Tarantella and Theme and Variations.

In 1994, at the age of 15, Murphy was a finalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. In 1995, she was awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir after performing the final round at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In 1996, she was a YoungArts Winner in Dance/Ballet (Level I); YoungArts is the core program of the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. In 1998, she was honored with a Princess Grace Foundation-USA grant. The Princess Grace Foundation awarded her its highest honor, the Statue Award, in 2009.

Here's the way Misty Copeland's bio starts with:

Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the age of 13 at the San Pedro Dance Center. At the age of fifteen she won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards. She then began her studies at the Lauridsen Ballet Center. Copeland has studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre's Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT's National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000.

So first, yes, I think race can be a big factor, but there may be other factors in why children could find Copeland a role model.

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When Linsanity hit, I was amused because, frankly, I didn't see why so many Asian Canadians and Asian Americans were so exited. Why would people who are the so-called "model minority," care that this guy was making a splash in the NBA? Wasn't it more impressive that he was a Harvard grad or a proudly devout Christian?

Then I read some columns by Asian American sports writers who said that he was getting folks so exited because his run was so unexpected. It seems that Asian Americans like everyone else, don't like being put in boxes that say they care only about studying medicine or the violin. They want to be free to be as individual as anyone else. That includes jocks in America's most freewheeling major sport.

When you turn a stereotype on it's head, people who are the victims of that stereotype love it.

So many black women who are frequently stereotyped as super athletic, hyper-sexual, and grace-challenged, love it when one of our tribe makes it in the field that is synonymous with feminine grace.

I think Jeremy Lin's case is a really interesting comparison with Misty Copeland. Here's a guy with a 4.2 GPA at Palo Alto High School, the most elite public high school in the state, captains the team to to the state Division II title and is Division II player of the year, and has NO NCAA Division I athletic scholarship offers. He's evaluated as a Division III college player. After a standout college career at Harvard, he's still undrafted by the NBA but perseveres against the odds and makes it into the league.

For Asian-Americans, him breaking into the NBA was a big deal because it was a big statement not only on sports, but the fact that an Asian-American could hang in elite sports, something that is very not in the model minority stereotype of engineers who play the violin. More than one coach has come forward and said since, that they should taken him more seriously as an athletic candidate, but quite frankly, he wasn't African-American or white and despite the objective statistics, they just didn't see him as a candidate for big-time sports. For arts, in which there is no baseline statistical measure, I can only imagine what the implications could be if you just don't fit the expected "look".

It's also a big deal in that Lin's journey was seriously hampered by not getting that initial scholarship offer. Once he was turned away from an NCAA scholarship, the odds were seriously against him ever making it to the NBA. Going to Harvard is great, but it's not really someplace scouts take seriously as a breeding ground for NBA players. So the chance than an Asian-American could make an impact as an NBA player is seen as big deal so that the next kid might not be dismissed quite so easily.

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When Linsanity hit, I was amused because, frankly, I didn't see why so many Asian Canadians and Asian Americans were so exited. Why would people who are the so-called "model minority," care that this guy was making a splash in the NBA? Wasn't it more impressive that he was a Harvard grad or a proudly devout Christian?

Then I read some columns by Asian American sports writers who said that he was getting folks so exited because his run was so unexpected. It seems that Asian Americans like everyone else, don't like being put in boxes that say they care only about studying medicine or the violin. They want to be free to be as individual as anyone else. That includes jocks in America's most freewheeling major sport.

When you turn a stereotype on it's head, people who are the victims of that stereotype love it.

So many black women who are frequently stereotyped as super athletic, hyper-sexual, and grace-challenged, love it when one of our tribe makes it in the field that is synonymous with feminine grace.

I think Jeremy Lin's case is a really interesting comparison with Misty Copeland. Here's a guy with a 4.2 GPA at Palo Alto High School, the most elite public high school in the state, captains the team to to the state Division II title and is Division II player of the year, and has NO NCAA Division I athletic scholarship offers. He's evaluated as a Division III college player. After a standout college career at Harvard, he's still undrafted by the NBA but perseveres against the odds and makes it into the league.

For Asian-Americans, him breaking into the NBA was a big deal because it was a big statement not only on sports, but the fact that an Asian-American could hang in elite sports, something that is very not in the model minority stereotype of engineers who play the violin. More than one coach has come forward and said since, that they should taken him more seriously as an athletic candidate, but quite frankly, he wasn't African-American or white and despite the objective statistics, they just didn't see him as a candidate for big-time sports. For arts, in which there is no baseline statistical measure, I can only imagine what the implications could be if you just don't fit the expected "look".

It's also a big deal in that Lin's journey was seriously hampered by not getting that initial scholarship offer. Once he was turned away from an NCAA scholarship, the odds were seriously against him ever making it to the NBA. Going to Harvard is great, but it's not really someplace scouts take seriously as a breeding ground for NBA players. So the chance than an Asian-American could make an impact as an NBA player is seen as big deal so that the next kid might not be dismissed quite so easily.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sidwich, you beautifully expressed what I was struggling to say. Lin and Copeland are so admirable because they are both so darned scrappy!

The mere fact that both made places for themselves in unlikely fields, is in itself, a victory. Many people identify with with that.

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Yes, Sidwich, very succinct and clear statement. I had forgotten about Lin's story, but there are so many interesting parallels here.

And yes Tapfan -- as a culture, we love someone we perceive as an underdog, especially in sports. My hope is that Copeland gets the opportunity to develop as all dancers do, with effort over time.

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There are several factors besides racism that probably account for the relatively few number of black ballet dancers: a relative lack of money for lessons; a relative lack of exposure to dance performances; greater interest in historically African-American dance and other art forms; and the perception which, ironically, Copeland has likely reinforced, that blacks meet resistance in the ballet world. All those factors shrink the pool of black dancers.

It is also debatable whether or not Copeland's “I will what I want” is a healthy and helpful message, or a self-aggrandizing and unrealistic one likely to stir hostility in kids towards anyone who doesn't cooperate with their will, and engender depression and poor self-esteem (or the presumption of racism) in kids who find out they can’t just will what they want.

Did Albert Evans, Aesha Ash, Carlos Acosta, and Desmond Richardson become the controversial figures Copeland has? Is the issue here racism, or is it Copeland? Half the pictures on her Instagram page seem designed to show off her body. If she's the role model she wants to be, one feels sorry for “all the little black girls” who don’t grow up to have bodies that can be as crudely described as she lets hers be described in the caption for one of those photos. They also portray her as super athletic.

And yes Tapfan -- as a culture, we love someone we perceive as an underdog, especially in sports. My hope is that Copeland gets the opportunity to develop as all dancers do, with effort over time.

I hope she gets the chance as well, but I love people a lot less when they praise and market themselves for overcoming handicaps (or what they perceive as handicaps). Everyone has things to overcome. "Look at me, I have overcome" is the flip side of "I'm a victim."

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They have added the Purple Rothbart casting to the calendar for the tour. Sterling Baca and Tom Forster are debuting in the role. The other Rothbarts are Hamoudi, Stearns and Whitside. So it appears that Gomes has retired the role of Rothbart. He is only dancing in the mixed bill programs at the end of the tour.

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Great to see these debuts! Baca gets three performances - wow. Hope they can keep those roles for the Met.

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Did Albert Evans, Aesha Ash, Carlos Acosta, and Desmond Richardson become the controversial figures Copeland has?

Of course not, because none of them had anywhere near as high a profile as Copeland. She's arguably the most famous ballet dancer in the country of any race. I can understand why that might irk some balletomanes who feel that based on talent, she's undeserving of such fame, but it doesn't explain the level of vitriol directed at Copeland.

Copeland isn't to blame for the fact that dancers who are better than her aren't better known or that ballet doesn't get the respect or attention from the great, unwashed, masses that balletomanes think it deserves.

And Lord knows it's not her fault that Abrera and Lane's careers are stuck at the soloist level.

And why do Copeland's detractors keep bringing up black, male, dancers? The controversial issue is the lack of black, female classical dancers.

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