I Love Black People


Misty Copeland is one of the most significant female athletes of our time

On a recent August afternoon, near Nineteenth Street, two young girls with blond hair pulled back in ponytails ran past me, one of them calling out, “Daddy, Daddy, I just saw Misty Copeland!” The tone of voice might as well have been used to announce a sighting of Katy Perry, or Snow White. A few steps later, I entered the tiny lobby of a building on Broadway, where an old electric fan was not quite keeping the doorman cool. A caged elevator took me up to the third floor, where I passed through a low-ceilinged hallway crowded with unlabelled posters of ballet greats, until I reached an expansive fluorescent-lit room with two walls of slightly warped mirrors and air-conditioning units sealed into the windows with black electrical tape. The American Ballet Theatre soloists Misty Copeland and Alexandre Hammoudi were rehearsing the pas de deux from Act II of “Swan Lake,” the scene in which we first meet Odette; an evil sorcerer’s spell has left her a swan by day and a human by night. Prince Siegfried is poised to kill the swan, but then witnesses its transformation into a beautiful young woman. “It’s not that you turn her,” Kevin McKenzie, A.B.T.’s artistic director since 1992 and a former principal dancer, told Hammoudi. “It’s that she’s startled, so she turns to you.” In the movement they were practicing, Odette is downstage left and Prince Siegfried walks up behind her. Odette is naïve, uncannily beautiful, and destined to die, but she is also, in each production, a very particular dancer. McKenzie continued, “And then you’re near this creature, and you’re both surprised by your proximity.”




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