BDBB: The Black Dance and Broadway Blog

Covering black professionals and professional productions in the dance and theater worlds, plus general arts news

Dance: Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack Make History With “Swan Lake”

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We know, we know. It’s been a while since we’ve posted.

But if ever there was a reason to get back to the blog, it would be last week’s landmark performances by Misty Copeland and Brooklyn Mack, performing the lead roles in The Washington Ballet’s production of “Swan Lake.”

There are many ways to look at these performances and the fact that Copeland and Mack were the first black couple to star in the lead roles as part of a full-length production with a major ballet company (important distinctions since DTH did feature black couples in its excerpts from “Swan Lake”).

But here are some questions this whole occasion has raised for me:

1) Why are these two the first in 2015, especially given that every major ballet company has had some sort of inner city outreach program for a while now. What’s happening to these kids? Why aren’t we seeing more of them? I suspect it’s a combination of things – support to continue the necessary training, access to the right coaching, typecasting, and the fact that few companies take on the full-length classics these days anyway.

I suspect it’s a combination of things – support to continue the necessary training, access to the right coaching, typecasting, and the fact that few companies take on the full-length classics these days anyway.

2)  The reviews that I saw gently but astutely alluded to a shortcoming in Copeland’s performances. Whether because of nervousness or a lack of coaching, there apparently seemed to be something missing when it came to Copeland’s interpretations of the dual roles.  Is this something that can grow with the help of coaching? Or does this point to a weakness as an actress and interpreter of these types of roles? You can teach

Is this something that can grow with the help of coaching? Or does this point to a weakness as an actress and interpreter of these types of roles? You can teach technique but I’m not sure you can teach someone how to dance from the soul. Is this something she can grow into? Will she be given the opportunities to grow into these roles?

This is an interesting question because as much as we would love to see Copeland rise to the top, it’s a disservice to her if she’s given roles that don’t showcase her well or that she’s not ready for. Those big, traditional ballets aren’t just filled with technical challenges; they’re also a test of artistry.

In any case, the growth and emergence of Copeland (and let’s not forget Mack, too!) is something dance watchers will continue to watch closely.

Here are links to some of the coverage:

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