Misty Copeland performs Coppelia in 2014. (Gilda N. Squire/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Misty Copeland’s autobiography, Life in Motion. (Gilda N. Squire/CC BY SA-4.0)

Elizabeth Blair, NPR

WASHINGTON (NPR.com)—Something rare is happening in the world of ballet: At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., two African-American dancers will be the leads in The Washington Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. Misty Copeland, soloist with American Ballet Theatre, will dance the dual role of Odette and Odile, while Brooklyn Mack of The Washington Ballet will dance Prince Siegfried.

Copeland and Mack have something in common that is also rare for young African-Americans: teachers who saw their potential early on and broke the unwritten rule that all ballet dancers must look alike.

Septime Webre, The Washington Ballet‘s longtime artistic director, says that 10 years ago he often was asked why there were no African-Americans in his company.

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