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Misty Copeland, Part Deux

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On 6/14/2017 at 0:36 PM, Natalia said:

 

You are 100% spot on, Cubanmiamiboy. As someone who began to follow Copeland during her early soloist years, with great hope for what she could become, I feel as if I've been scammed by the hype. I've enjoyed her Juliet but little else. Since she's now in her mid-30s, I wouldn't be surprised if she forms her own modern touring group and/or takes over the KennedyCenter  dance series after Farrell leaves next year? They seem to be grooming her for that sort of thing.

 

For a beautiful ballerina of color with great technique and musicality, worthy of principal status, keep an eye on Francesca Hayward of the Royal Ballet.

According to at least one British dance writer, Ms Hayward could attribute her meteoric rise not only to her talent, but also to Misty's  rise to principle status. According to said writer, a company like The Royal doesn't wish to be seen as being on the wrong side of history by appearing to impede the progression to principle status of any woman of African descent. So Miss Hayward of the Royal and Miss Gittens of the Birmingham Royal were both fast-tracked to Principle status.

 

Is it fair to suggest that they have advanced to principle status for any reason other than their talent? No.  But that's how it is with black or mixed-race black dancers.  Ballet's history of unabashed  institutional racism  - especially towards black women - causes all career advancements made by black  and mixed-race  female dancers  in predominately white companies, to be called into question.   If they advance, it's due to affirmative action.  If they don't, it's due to racism.  

 

That Miss Hayward has expressed having had no racial issues in her career or the fact that she doesn't seem to be a crusader for diversity and inclusion the ballet, has itself been been unfairly politicized. Is she implying that black women who have encountered bias are lying or being too sensitive? Is she  just going along to get along?  Is  racism is less harsh or prevalent  in the UK?  Does she care only about herself?

 

Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that her own experiences HAVE been universally positive.   Besides, as Theresa Howard has said, sometimes you just want to dance. You don't want to be Sojourner Truth in a tutu and pointe shoes. And it goes without saying that all she owes the ,public, is her best dancing.

 

I understand why some people are horrified by Misty. They think she's an average dancer who was promoted over more deserving dancers (although some of the dancers that they feel are so much more deserving are real head-scratchers in my book.)  I also get why they are put off by her endless self-promotion and I can see why these feelings of distaste for her constant shilling aren't mitigated by the fact that she is an inspiration to little brown girls.  It's totally understandable.

 

I just wish that people would express some interest in black ballerinas other than when they want show how annoyed they are are with Copeland's status. There ARE other female black ballet dancers out there, some of whom are quite talented. But  many ballet fans can't seem to be bothered to know or care about any of them.   Virginia  Johnson who is long retired, is usually the only one anybody can mention.

 

I suspect that until there emerges a black female dancer who has the technique, musicality, stage presence, acting ability, perfect ballet physique, perfect feet, versatility, charisma and western standards of beauty (biracial or biracial-looking) who is obviously so superior that she towers over the rest of the ballet world in  the same way that Michael Jordan towered over the rest of the NBA, only then,  will a sister get her due. She'll be  Superballerina!

 

Nobody has to jump on the Misty bandwagon to prove they hold no bias. But erasure of black women from the conversation about the art until  you want to talk about how undeserving Misty is, can come across as hinky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Tapfan

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6 hours ago, Tapfan said:

According to at least one British dance writer, Ms Hayward could attribute her meteoric rise not only to her talent, but also to Misty's  rise to principle status. According to said writer, a company like The Royal doesn't wish to be seen as being on the wrong side of history by appearing to impede the progression to principle status of any woman of African descent. So Miss Hayward of the Royal and Miss Gittens of the Birmingham Royal were both fast-tracked to Principle status.

 

Is it fair to suggest that they have advanced to principle status for any reason other than their talent? No.  But that's how it is with black or mixed-race black dancers.  Ballet's history of unabashed  institutional racism  - especially towards black women - causes all career advancements made by black  and mixed-race  female dancers  in predominately white companies, to be called into question.   If they advance, it's due to affirmative action.  If they don't, it's due to racism.  

 

That Miss Hayward has expressed having had no racial issues in her career or the fact that she doesn't seem to be a crusader for diversity and inclusion the ballet, has itself been been unfairly politicized. Is she implying that black women who have encountered bias are lying or being too sensitive? Is she  just going along to get along?  Is  racism is less harsh or prevalent  in the UK?  Does she care only about herself?

 

Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that her own experiences HAVE been universally positive.   Besides, as Theresa Howard has said, sometimes you just want to dance. You don't want to be Sojourner Truth in a tutu and pointe shoes. And it goes without saying that all she owes the ,public, is her best dancing.

 

I understand why some people are horrified by Misty. They think she's an average dancer who was promoted over more deserving dancers (although some of the dancers that they feel are so much more deserving are real head-scratchers in my book.)  I also get why they are put off by her endless self-promotion and I can see why these feelings of distaste for her constant shilling aren't mitigated by the fact that she is an inspiration to little brown girls.  It's totally understandable.

 

I just wish that people would express some interest in black ballerinas other than when they want show how annoyed they are are with Copeland's status. There ARE other female black ballet dancers out there, some of whom are quite talented. But  many ballet fans can't seem to be bothered to know or care about any of them.   Virginia  Johnson who is long retired, is usually the only one anybody can mention.

 

I suspect that until there emerges a black female dancer who has the technique, musicality, stage presence, acting ability, perfect ballet physique, perfect feet, versatility, charisma and western standards of beauty (biracial or biracial-looking) who is obviously so superior that she towers over the rest of the ballet world in  the same way that Michael Jordan towered over the rest of the NBA, only then,  will a sister get her due. She'll be  Superballerina!

 

Nobody has to jump on the Misty bandwagon to prove they hold no bias. But erasure of black women from the conversation about the art until  you want to talk about how undeserving Misty is, can come across as hinky.

 

 

 

Would you care to name the writer please?

 

Misty Copeland has no significance in Britain, I believe I saw her in a small role a few years back, after reading about her here I discovered you tube clips show a mediocre talent.

 

.

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There is a female US hurdler named LoLo Jones who embraced social media and garnered media attention and corporate sponsorships.  

 

Fast forward to the London Games and she finished fourth....a great disappointment to the media that hyped her.  The media has been critical of her ever since.  

 

I think the same could happen to Misty. 

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8 hours ago, Tapfan said:

I just wish that people would express some interest in black ballerinas other than when they want show how annoyed they are are with Copeland's status. There ARE other female black ballet dancers out there, some of whom are quite talented. But  many ballet fans can't seem to be bothered to know or care about any of them.   Virginia  Johnson who is long retired, is usually the only one anybody can mention.

Expressing an interest in black ballerinas is a tough one for me in that I'm not looking for race or ethnic background when a dancer draws my interest. I loved Debra Austin, who was an African-American dancer. She was soloist in NYCB and then a principal in Pennsylvania ballet. She was a fine artist, musical, beautiful technique and an amazing jump. I go back and watch her performances on youtube to this day! I don't think she got more or less attention than the other NYCB soloists or Pennsylvania principals of her day.

 

I've noticed Olivia Boisson as a lovely dancer with a warm quality who is in the NYCB corps. She won an award as a promising artist a few years ago. I enjoy watching her on stage. I don't know if she will rise up through the ranks. Most don't and if she doesn't I don't think it will because of the color of her skin.

 

I was a fan of Misty Copeland's when she was a soloist. I enjoyed her in many roles. As a principal dancer she doesn't rise to the level, artistically or technically, that I go to the ballet to see. I have limited money for tickets, so I don't go to see her. I also tend to avoid Hee Seo, and it isn't because she's Asian.

 

Now - me not buying a ticket for Copeland is not a problem for ABT. Her performances are sold out, and if you go into the Met gift shop, there is a Misty Copeland corner with dolls and books. 

 

Misty Copeland is doing fine and ABT is cashing in on her performances. Good for them. There are other dancers that I go to see.

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2 hours ago, Mashinka said:

 

Would you care to name the writer please?

 

Misty Copeland has no significance in Britain, I believe I saw her in a small role a few years back, after reading about her here I discovered you tube clips show a mediocre talent.

 

.

Luke Jennings.   He had praised Misty a few years back when ABT performed in London, although the piece she was noted for was not classical. Over the years, he has  used her rising profile as evidence that despite the the nearly non-existent numbers of black women in major companies, some black woman would break through to principle status and that it might be her. This was of course,  before the emergence of Miss Hayward.

 

Mr. Jenkins took issue with Carlos Acosta who stated that there was a small, lingering bias towards black women because they supposedly disrupt the harmony of blanc classicism. Jenkins argued that training and access was all that held back women of color and that company AD's would love to have black female dancers as principles.   

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13 hours ago, Jayne said:

There is a female US hurdler named LoLo Jones who embraced social media and garnered media attention and corporate sponsorships.  

 

Fast forward to the London Games and she finished fourth....a great disappointment to the media that hyped her.  The media has been critical of her ever since.  

 

I think the same could happen to Misty. 

Maybe, but I have my doubts.  Show business, be it pop culture or high art, has always had folks who reached super stardom despite what many felt was mediocre talent.  Does anyone truly believe that Madonna became one of the  biggest musical acts of all time because she was the best female singer of her era?

 

Besides,  it's hardly a universally agreed upon opinion - even by so-called "ballet people"  - that Copeland is just average. Copeland's talent  is controversial, like Alina Somova.  

  

Edited by Tapfan

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25 minutes ago, Tapfan said:

Maybe, but I have my doubts.  Show business, be it pop culture of high art, has always had folks who reached superstardom despite what many felt was mediocre talent.  Does anyone truly believe that Madonna became one of the  biggest musical acts of all time because she was the best female singer of her era?

 

Besides,  it's hardly a universally agreed upon opinion - even by so-called "ballet people"  - that Copeland is just average. Copeland's talent  is controversial, like Alina Somova.  

  

I think any Somova controversy is different. She had ardent fans who were blown away by her and then she had detractors. In ABT Part is an example of that type of controversy. I don't think there is much disagreement about Copeland. No one is calling her a great ballerina. 

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No worries.   I'm not suggesting that anyone should feel obligated to support black ballerinas just because they are black. I suspect that not even the angriest most bitter, old-school black female classical dancer wants or needs that kind of condescension.  Copeland's work is out there to be judged just like every other artist.

 

What I don't get is the out-sized - at least to me- annoyance she generates in some folks as if she stole something from someone.   All truly gifted dancers are going to rise, along with some who are not so gifted.    Isn't that what the ballet establishment has been saying all these years?  If that's true, then what happens to Misty is irrelevant.

 

The reason I've mentioned the lack of attention given to other black female dancers is that some, not all, but some folks who've been critical of Misty's promotion to principle, have indicated that her supposedly undeserved promotion would hurt the chances of other dancers of color who come after her. Apparently, everyone will expect black female dancers to be sub-par because Misty is. 

 

I just found this concern for all the future black swans to be suspect considering the fact that the only time anyone ever talks about a woman who happens to black in the field of classical dance,  is when they want to criticize Misty. The rest of the time, black women are invisible.  You'd think they'd talk about somebody else who's black on occasion if just by accident. 

Edited by Tapfan

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1 hour ago, vipa said:

I think any Somova controversy is different. She had ardent fans who were blown away by her and then she had detractors. In ABT Part is an example of that type of controversy. I don't think there is much disagreement about Copeland. No one is calling her a great ballerina. 

 

 

Well, SOME are.  Maybe they are blinded to her shortcomings because they want some black woman somewhere to make to the top. But these people are definitely ballet people with informed opinions. 

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18 minutes ago, Tapfan said:

No worries.   I'm not suggesting that anyone should feel obligated to support black ballerinas just because they are black. I suspect that not even the angriest most bitter, old-school black female classical dancer wants or needs that kind of condescension.  Copeland's work is out there to be judged just like ever other artist.

 

What I don't get is the out-sized - at least to me- annoyance she generates in some folks as if she stole something from someone.   All truly gifted dancers are going to rise, along with some who are not so gifted.    Isn't that what the ballet establishment has been saying all these years?  If that's true, then what happens to Misty is irrelevant.

 

The reason I've mentioned the lack of attention given to other black female dancers is that some, not all, but some folks who've been critical of Misty's promotion to principle, have indicated that her supposedly undeserved promotion would hurt the chances of other dancers of color who come after her. Apparently, everyone will expect black female dancers to be sub-par because Misty is. 

 

I just found this concern for all the future black swans to be suspect considering the fact that the only time anyone ever talks about a woman who happens to black in the field of classical dance,  is when they want to criticize Misty. The rest of the time, black women are invisible.  You'd think they'd talk about somebody else who's black on occasion if just by accident. 

I don't really get it either. Misty isn't the only principal on ABT's roster who has weak technique or other deficiencies.  And I do agree with you that the only time other black or part black ballerina's are even brought up is to bring her down. Ordinarily though they are not mentioned. It's really not even that serious. When I'm in NY to see an ABT performance their are principals and soloists that I don't like (a few of them are championed to the high heavens on this forum) and I don't really understand their promotion, but I just don't buy a ticket to their performance and leave it at that. 

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3 hours ago, Jayne said:

There is a female US hurdler named LoLo Jones who embraced social media and garnered media attention and corporate sponsorships.  

 

Fast forward to the London Games and she finished fourth....a great disappointment to the media that hyped her.  The media has been critical of her ever since.  

 

I think the same could happen to Misty. 

She's in her mid-thirties, and even were she amping up to be a competition dancer, none is a multi-billion dollar event with worldwide television coverage to document in prime time an off-podium finish, which is what counts in sports.  

 

Her sponsors and her sponsors' demographic aren't counting fouettes.

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2 hours ago, vipa said:

Expressing an interest in black ballerinas is a tough one for me in that I'm not looking for race or ethnic background when a dancer draws my interest. 

 

It is tough for me since I haven't encounter too many of them in any company I follow-(ABT...MCB...NYCB...BOLSHOI...MARIINSKY...POB). On the contrary...I do remember following Jose Manuel Carreno and Carlos Acosta since the very early stages of their career, and up until they left Cuba. They were both AMAZING...and being black had nothing to do with it. I hadn't seen Copeland dance a full evening ballet until I saw her SL...and dear...it was just a sad spectacle...whatever race she might be.

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4 hours ago, Jayne said:

There is a female US hurdler named LoLo Jones who embraced social media and garnered media attention and corporate sponsorships.  

 

Fast forward to the London Games and she finished fourth....a great disappointment to the media that hyped her.  The media has been critical of her ever since.  

 

I think the same could happen to Misty. 

Sort of :offtopic:but I think the way Jones was treated by the media was sometimes rather unfair. And whatever disappointment athletes, observers, and sponsors feel about fourth place at the Olympics, perhaps worth remembering it still means your are one of the best athletes in the world.

 

As far as Copeland goes, lots of dancers promote themselves through social media now...Heck there are 17 year olds at the Vaganova school who have a fan base online and bloggers speculating on their future greatness. I am not crazy about this phenomenon, but it is a reality. 

 

And I also don't see the point in holding Copeland's crossover success against her (anymore than I liked the way people went after Lolo Jones). If she got outsized attention among ABT soloists when she first emerged because of her African-American background, well that is a symptom of something troubling about many major ballet companies not about her. That she then ran with that attention...well, why shouldn't she? It has been good for ABT and ballet in all kinds of ways...

 

In a 2006 interview in the Guardian Carlis Acosta said New York is full of black ballet dancers who get their dreams crushed. Just his perspective of course, but it gives a picture of the context in which Copeland has fought for her career.

 

36 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

 

 I hadn't seen Copeland dance a full evening ballet until I saw her SL...and dear...it was just a sad spectacle...whatever race she might be.

I thought it was just the Odile you thought went poorly--On the Swan Lake thread you had posted at intermission that you liked Copeland's  Odette.

Edited by Drew

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13 minutes ago, Drew said:

 

I thought it was just the Odile you thought went poorly--On the Swan Lake thread you posted at intermission that you liked Copeland's  Odette. 

 

At intermezzo I stated I had enjoyed her first act. After her ballroom act disaster-( in which I realized how deficient she is, technically speaking)- the overall impression was, as I said, rather sad.

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6 hours ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

 

It is tough for me since I haven't encounter too many of them in any company I follow-(ABT...MCB...NYCB...BOLSHOI...MARIINSKY...POB). On the contrary...I do remember following Jose Manuel Carreno and Carlos Acosta since the very early stages of their career, and up until they left Cuba. They were both AMAZING...and being black had nothing to do with it. I hadn't seen Copeland dance a full evening ballet until I saw her SL...and dear...it was just a sad spectacle...whatever race she might be.

 

Of course Acosta danced with the Bolshoi when the numbers of suitable dancers for Spartacus were down, it wouldn't surprise me if they invite Brooklyn Mack to fill the role in the future.

 

Francesca Hayward is mixed race and therefore never stood out in the corps.  Interestingly, she impresses those London fans whose interest is solely Bolshoi and Kirov, these are the ones who only go to the RB when the likes of Osipova and Muntagirov are dancing, but they've spotted Ms H and very much like what they see.

 

ENB have darker complexioned Precious Adams in the corps, I've never heard anyone comment negatively on her presence there.  ENB also invited over Michaela dePrince, a young lady of African birth to dance in Giselle, a bit puzzling as they have company members capable of Queen of the Wilis, I would much have preferred her to have danced it at the RB where the failure to produce an outstanding performance of that particular role (along with the Lilac Fairy) is an embarrassment.

 

Pretty much all the British companies have black male dancers, the RB has several, the majority seem to thrive.

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11 hours ago, Drew said:

 

As far as Copeland goes, lots of dancers promote themselves through social media now...Heck there are 17 year olds at the Vaganova school who have a fan base online and bloggers speculating on their future greatness. I am not crazy about this phenomenon, but it is a reality. 

 

 

Just to be  clear, Copeland didn't just promote herself on social media.  She used and continues to use the media to accuse her superiors of denying her opportunities because she is black.  Here is an excerpt from a NY Times interview from Apr 22, 2017:

 

"For years and years, I watched as white dancers came in — when I knew I was more talented or brought more depth to a role — but had to sit back and watch it happen. But I didn’t stop working."

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/22/style/misty-copeland-sally-field.html

 

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37 minutes ago, abatt said:

Just to be  clear, Copeland didn't just promote herself on social media.  She used and continues to use the media to accuse her superiors of denying her opportunities because she is black. 

Or, to look at it another way, when a major publication asks her about her experience, she describes it.

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51 minutes ago, abatt said:

"For years and years, I watched as white dancers came in — when I knew I was more talented or brought more depth to a role — but had to sit back and watch it happen. But I didn’t stop working."

This is Copeland's own opinion that she was more talented and brought more depth to a role. Many dancers feel this way when passed over for a role. It is not necessarily true. I guarantee that for every Giselle, Juliette etc. that is cast there are a number of women who feel they should have been given the chance. Sometimes some of them are probably right.

 

I always thought that Copeland was cast plenty over the years. She obviously disagrees.

 

It's complicated.

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That reminds me of the joke how many ballet dancers does it take to change a light bulb?

 

50. One to change the bulb and 49 to watch and complain they could have done it better.

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It's not just that she says other dancers took away her opportunities.  That's the experience of every ABT dancer, because of the guest artist policy.  She specifically uses the words "white dancers", and so she automatically turns it into a racial discrimination issue.

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10 hours ago, Mashinka said:

 

Of course Acosta danced with the Bolshoi when the numbers of suitable dancers for Spartacus were down, it wouldn't surprise me if they invite Brooklyn Mack to fill the role in the future.

 

Francesca Hayward is mixed race and therefore never stood out in the corps.  Interestingly, she impresses those London fans whose interest is solely Bolshoi and Kirov, these are the ones who only go to the RB when the likes of Osipova and Muntagirov are dancing, but they've spotted Ms H and very much like what they see.

 

ENB have darker complexioned Precious Adams in the corps, I've never heard anyone comment negatively on her presence there.  ENB also invited over Michaela dePrince, a young lady of African birth to dance in Giselle, a bit puzzling as they have company members capable of Queen of the Wilis, I would much have preferred her to have danced it at the RB where the failure to produce an outstanding performance of that particular role (along with the Lilac Fairy) is an embarrassment.

 

Pretty much all the British companies have black male dancers, the RB has several, the majority seem to thrive.

It's not just the Brits,  almost all ballet companies in the West - from the major companies  to the  smallest regional organizations -  have at least one black male. Pick a company at random and check the head shots of the company rosters to see what I mean.

 

While black men definitely have their own race-related issues to contend with in the ballet world, male dancers are harder to come by in the West so it is easier for black men to find employment.  Also, black males don't have to contend with their skin color being a distraction when they stand in a line of white Swans or Willies.  Black women do.

 

While most folks in the black ballet community would like to see more black male and female dancers of all hues  dancing in companies of all sizes, the biggest complaint they've had over the years is the dearth of black female dancers.  And they definitely are not down with the presumption that no black females are or were qualified. 

 

Instead, they felt that black female dancers had to fight against hoary old stereotypes about always being poorly trained, lacking grace, being unable to control their power or having bad feet or the wrong body types. 

 

For instance, the way some people spoke about Michaela DePrince's body was disgraceful. This young woman is petite. And not just tiny for a regular young woman her height. She is tiny even when compared to other ballet dancers. But some donkey's behinds talked about her as if she was as muscled as a female body builder. It made me realize that they were not seeing her real body, or even the quality of her movement. They were seeing  her in a stereotyped way that they saw all black women's bodies as either too fleshy, or hyper-athletic in build. 

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1 hour ago, abatt said:

It's not just that she says other dancers took away her opportunities.  That's the experience of every ABT dancer, because of the guest artist policy.  She specifically uses the words "white dancers", and so she automatically turns it into a racial discrimination issue.

And, once again, she was asked, and she told about her experience from her point of view. 

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1 hour ago, abatt said:

It's not just that she says other dancers took away her opportunities.  That's the experience of every ABT dancer, because of the guest artist policy.  She specifically uses the words "white dancers", and so she automatically turns it into a racial discrimination issue.

I agree Abatt, and that clearly is her perspective. If there were more black dancers and one of them was chosen over her, she would have to think differently. As I said before it's complicated. Back in the day when I was a dancer and didn't get a role I thought I should have, I often thought I lost out because of height, plain old favoritism or some other reason that I found unjustifiec. Now that I look back it's easier for me to see the virtues of other dancers.

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I've read a variety of Misty interviews in the past few years and they're very repetitive. She seems to have a set of talking points that she sticks to closely. Not saying this is good or bad, but I can basically sum up a Misty interview before reading it.

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It depends on the interviewer in part. I couldn't have predicted what Copeland said about preparing her Giselle debut. (I was genuinely surprised she talked about the social/public humiliation aspect of Giselle's situation feeding into the mad scene)  -- but I think a lot of the time, she probably gets asked the same or similar questions over and over.  Similar to other celebrities.

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