black ballerinas rock! so why are there so few??

yes. there are black ballerinas, but the struggle to excel in an industry that has decided what a ballerina should look like is a challenge. however, these three chicas are swan lake’n over those blocks and reaching back so other young girls can do the same…

in pointe, the ladies {ashley murphy, ebony williams, and misty copeland} discuss divers ballet and misty copeland’s Project Plié, a collaboration between misty and the american ballet to help increase diversity in ballet.


ashley murphy, shreveport, louisiana
Ashley Murphy began her dance training at age 3. She was enrolled in the pre-professional division at Carol Anglin Dance Center from 1993-2002, where she became a member of Louisiana Dance Theatre, an Honor Company of Regional Dance America. She has also performed for Shreveport Opera and Moscow State Ballet as well as in the premiere of William Joyce’s The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs. She represented LDT in the Regional Dance America performance at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi and attended summer programs at New York’s Joffrey Ballet School and The Ailey School. In 2002, Ms. Murphy went on to train and perform with Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Dancing Through Barriers® Ensemble. The following year, she was accepted into the DTH Company and toured with them throughout the United States and to foreign countries that included Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Greece. Ms. Murphy has also taught for the DTH Pre-Professional Residency at the Kennedy Center. White House special, appearing on BET’s 106 & Park and the game show Jeopardy, and representing the U.S. in a cultural exchange program in Kingston, Jamaica. In 2011, she was chosen for a new work by Christopher L. Huggins that was commissioned for Dancers Responding to AIDS.

ebony williams, boston, massachusetts
Ebony Williams (Joined Cedar Lake in 2005) comes from Boston, Massachusetts, where she trained with the Boston Ballet from age eight through high school. She also attended the Roxbury Center for the Performing Arts. She is a May 2005 graduate of the Boston Conservatory with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Williams has performed works by such choreographers as Donald Byrd and Luis Fuente. Being a versatile dancer has given her the opportunity to also work in the commercial world with artists such as Rihanna, Fergie, Ciara (Love, Sex, Magic, featuring Justin Timberlake) and Beyoncé. As one of the dancers in the 2009 MTV video of the year Single Ladies, Williams also performed with Beyoncé on her promo tour, the American Music Awards, the “Today Show” and “Saturday Night Live.”

misty copeland, oakland, california
misty is an American ballet dancer, described by many accounts as the first African American female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States (along with New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet).  However, Anne Benna Sims and Nora Kimball, who were with the ABT in the early and mid-1980s respectively,preceded her.  In this role as the third African-American soloist and first in two decades with ABT, she has endured the cultural pressure associated with it.

Copeland is considered a prodigy who rose to stardom despite not starting ballet until the age of 13. By age 15, Copeland’s mother and ballet teachers, who were serving as her custodial guardians, fought a custody battle over her. Meanwhile, Copeland, who was already an award-winning dancer, was fielding professional offers.  The 1998 legal proceedings involved filings for emancipation by Copeland and restraining orders by her mother.  Both sides dropped legal proceedings, and Copeland moved home to begin studying under a new teacher who was a former ABT member.

In 1997, Copeland won the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Award as the best dancer in Southern California. After two summer workshops with the ABT, she became a member of the Studio Company in 2000, a member of the corps de ballet in 2001, and a soloist in 2007.  Stylistically, she is considered a classical ballet dancer.  As a soloist since the autumn of 2007, she has been described as having matured into a more contemporary and sophisticated dancer.





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