Debbie Allen gives ballet students a chance to chat with Prima Ballerina Misty Copeland.
Debbie Allen teamed up with Misty Copeland to kick off DADA ON POINTE and host “An Afternoon with Misty Copeland,” at Grand Arts High School this past Saturday, March 19.
Hundreds of young dancers gathered in the auditorium in awe as they listened to the two dance icons discuss a wide range of issues.
The raw discussion kicked off the five-day ballet intensive course, where young dancers above the age of 8 work with World Class Ballet Masters from Russia and the U.S.
“When I was born, I had extra toes and I had surgery at 12 to get them removed. The doctors didn’t think that I would be able to dance and they still can’t believe that I dance point,” said Deja Harris-Holmes, 16, who has been dancing with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for seven years. “I think it was inspiring, I really think that I can prove myself more after hearing what Misty had to say about her injuries.”
Copeland, 33, is the current and first Black woman to be promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the top ballet companies in the world. She has faced many struggles on her way to becoming the star dancer at ABT.
Copeland started dancing at 13 at the San Pedro Dance Center and throughout her journey she’s been criticized about everything from her age, to her race and body type. The intimate discussion between Allen and Copeland spoke to many of the struggles young girls as go through as dancers.
“We [dancers] go through some of the toughest pain imaginable,” Copeland said. “We’re some of the strongest people out there.”
Copeland also touched on having to go through emancipation from parents in order to pursue dance with a coach.
It is common in the world of professional ballet for a young dancer to emancipate from their parents and travel with their coach, but also something that’s tough for many families to understand.
“That commitment, it’s something that my family didn’t understand,” said Copeland. “That’s one of the reasons why I work with Project Plie where we also focus on educating the parents on what it is to have a child that you’re training to become a professional and how to manage that.”
The discussion turned to the audience, which, along with dancers, was full of parents and family members of the young dancers who are part of the ballet intensive. Copeland’s answers gave the audience an idea of what it is like to be on a journey of a dancer who is young, Black and different.
“It was really informative because a lot of people asked questions that I had,” said Kelsey Johnson, 15, who also dances with the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. “But just being in her presence was awesome because I’ve never been in the presence of a dancer of that caliber.”
Copeland also gave some insight on her personal life. She spoke about her fiance and balancing a demanding career with her personal support system. She also divulged her love of cooking. If she wasn’t a dancer she would be a chef, she said.
“I liked her answers, she’s such a down to earth person,” said Avia Greene-VanBuren, 48, whose daughter is taking the intensive. “But her humility in spite of everything that she’s been through was just touching for me because it gives everyone the courage to do what they aspire to do in life.”
This conversation was just the first event of the five-day dance intensive that will also feature master classes taught by Allen, Copeland and many other dancers. For more information on the DADA ON POINTE ballet intensive and the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, visit www.debbieallendanceacademy.com.