Read Misty Copeland's Amazing Response to Her "Swan Lake" Critics

March 27, 2018

In case you haven’t heard (but you have): American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is one of most famous, and most respected, ballerinas in the world. She’s also one of the only black women currently performing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, which means her (inevitably sold-out) performances of the role come with an extra degree of both celebration and scrutiny.

Since she first started dancing the part in 2015, Copeland has struggled with its infamously difficult sequence of 32 fouettés. She’s not the first ballerina to do so; the legendary Maya Plisetskaya, for example, opted to skip them completely, subbing a glittering string of piqué and chaîné turns instead (you can see them here, at 8:13). But Copeland’s Swan Lake “fouetté fails,” some of which have been posted to YouTube, have attracted plenty of jeers on social media. And today, Copeland herself responded to the criticism.

“I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet,” she wrote. “I know that I’m in a very unique position and have been given a rare platform. All I’ve ever wanted is to bring ballet to more people and to help to diversify it.”

“I never envisioned myself as the Swan Queen after being in the company for almost 15 years before i was given the opportunity….I have such deep and conflicting feelings connected to Swan Lake. As a black woman and as a ballerina given the chance to take on this role. I often question if I deserve to perform this role. My conclusion, I do. Some of the most memorable Swan Queens in history have brought so much more to this role without having to present the incredible and evolved technique of today by doing insane tricks that bring some to see Swan Lake. For the anticipated 32 fouettés. But it is so much more than that. People come to see ballet for the escape. For the experience of being moved through our movement and artistry, not to score us on the technicality of what we do. This is why ballet is not a sport.”

That’s just a small part of Copeland’s post, which is 1000 percent worth reading in full. It’s not a clapback. It’s a a thoughtful, measured take on a charged topic.

Brava, Misty.