National Press Club

Upcoming production of Swan Lake is subject of Nov. 18 Newsmaker

November 20, 2014 | By Jennifer Ejim |

Ballerina Misty Copeland said at a Club Newsmaker Nov. 18 that she never saw herself playing the role of Odette in Swan Lake due to what she called a “stereotype" of what the character should looks like.

Copeland, an American Ballet Theatre soloist, will make her U.S. premiere in the April 2015 debut of Swan Lake, a collaborative effort between the Washington Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Evermay Chamber Orchestra.

Copeland denied being the first black ballerina to star in a major classical ballet production, saying “others had come before her,” even though there was little documentation in any archive depicting this bit of history. She said the difference in her case was that she had been given a platform to “speak up” on behalf of all of them.

“Odette is the most iconic role I have ever had to portray, and there are so many who I feel I have to look up to, which is something that I respect,” Copeland said.

This is “probably” the second time that a major company in America has presented Swan Lake with African-American leads, Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre said. Copeland and Brooklyn Mack, a black classical ballet dancer, will star in the upcoming production.

Webre said three factors contributed to the growth of Washington as an art and cultural hub,caused a “convergence” of this phenomenon. The rise in economic growth, which translates to “resources for artists”; the high proportion of educated people from around the world “for whom art is a part of life”; and the fact that Washington was an “establishment city” where the “larger cultural institutions have a very big impact.”