I have strong women on my mind in these recent weeks as courageous women have been petulantly (and liberally) dismissed or vilified in some quarters, so my brief encounter with Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theatre's first African-American female principal dancer, was all the more significant. Surprised with tickets to see her dance in "Her Notes" at New York City's Lincoln Center this week, what lingered most after seeing her in person for the first time was her confident and subtly powerful self-expression. The dance tableaux was very beautiful and precise, and some of ABT's finest were in the performance, but Copeland's evocation of her role shone through above the others.
Was it her story, or was it the way she delivered her role? Probably both - after all, how we behave is driven by our stories. But what we Womentravelers appreciated most from Copeland in this too-short dance choreographed by another woman, Jessica Lang, about an overlooked woman composer (Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel) was how she translated her muscularity with warmth and good will. The message was clear - she valued us, too, and was determined to share her best. It was a maturity beyond her 34 years, originating from her own unlikely story and at the same time, a mastery of her own vision. Copeland's memoir Life in Motion reveals what it takes for a young woman to follow her dreams against many odds, which, we agreed, has lessons for women of all generations today.