Ballerina Misty Copeland was the first Black ballerina to become a principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. In her autobiography, Life in motion: an unlikely ballerina, she wrote about her early life and how she became involved in ballet, and was accepted into American Ballet Theatre. In itself, her early life was one of struggle, but in ballet she found her calling. She has written many other books about her life and about what it takes to become a professional ballerina. Those books, for adults and children, can be found here. In this new book, she documents and pays homage to performers of color who laid the foundation for her entree into this very rarified world of dance. It is about her relationship with Raven Wilkinson, a ballerina from another era, with whom she had the great fortune and opportunity to work. Very little has been written about this talented, remarkable ballerina.
Anne Raven Wilkinson became the first Black ballerina in the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, for which she was eminently and professionally qualified. However, that did not mean her role as performer was an easy one, depending on where the company performed in the United States. The meeting between Raven and Misty would be important and potent for both of them, professionally and personally. Raven followed Misty’s career and performances, and said, “Every time you step on that stage, I’ll be the wind at your back.”
The world of ballet is replete with illusion: the story and themed created works; also the dancing which looks effortless and beautiful belies years of training, daily classes and hours of rehearsals for professional dancers. Ballet dancers have more strength and stamina than football and soccer players, only they never reveal how hard they are exerting themselves. No heavy breathing, no giving in when it is necessary to dance with an injury. Performances take place and the show goes on.
Here are other books of interest, with an emphasis on dancers of color; also a renowned ballet company that was filled with intrigue; and a book that provides some humor:
Dance Theatre of Harlem: a history, a movement, a celebration
Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s embodiment of African American culture
Reaching for dreams: a ballet from rehearsal to opening night
Bolshoi confidential: secrets of the Russian ballet from the rule of the tsars to today