Breaking Barriers: Black Dancers at American Ballet Theatre

By American Ballet Theatre

ABTMissionStatementAmerican Ballet Theatre

American Ballet TheatreAmerican Ballet Theatre

Desmond Richardson in OthelloAmerican Ballet Theatre

Pioneer

Desmond Richardson, the first black Principal Dancer with ABT

Desmond Richardson in OthelloAmerican Ballet Theatre

Richardson joined ABT as a Principal Dancer in 1997, after achieving success at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Frankfurt Ballet.

Sandra Brown and Desmond Richardson in Othello. by Photo by Roy Round.American Ballet Theatre

With ABT, Richardson created leading roles in Othello and Remanso, and performed in such classics as The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet.

Desmond Richardson in OthelloAmerican Ballet Theatre

Richardson is recognized not only for his talent, but also for his expansive and trailblazing career in dance, from ABT to Broadway to the silver screen.

Misty Copeland in Don Quixote by Gene SchiavoneAmerican Ballet Theatre

Prodigy

Misty Copeland, the first black woman to become Principal Dancer with ABT

Young Misty CopelandAmerican Ballet Theatre

Copeland's natural talent was discovered by chance at age 13 during a free ballet class at a Boys and Girls Club in San Pedro, California.

Here, Misty Copeland on pointe at age 14

Misty Copeland and Gabe Stone Shayer in The Sleeping Beauty (2015) by Doug GiffordAmerican Ballet Theatre

Copeland joined ABT Studio Company in 2000 and rose quickly through the ranks. She was promoted to Soloist with American Ballet Theatre in 2007.

Misty Copeland and corps de ballet member Gabe Stone Shayer perform the Bluebird Pas de Deux.

Misty Copeland in Firebird by Fabrizio FerriAmerican Ballet Theatre

Copeland's big break came 5 years later, when she danced the lead role in Firebird at the Metropolitan Opera House - the first black woman at ABT ever to do so.

This Firebird poster featuring Misty Copeland greeted New Yorkers outside the Metropolitan Opera House.

Misty Copeland TIME 100 CoverAmerican Ballet Theatre

As a Soloist with ABT, Copeland was named to TIME Magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People - and landed on the cover.

Curtain call with Misty Copeland and Raven Wilkinson by Gene SchiavoneAmerican Ballet Theatre

In August 2015, Misty Copeland was promoted to Principal Dancer with ABT. She was the first black ballerina to reach that title in the Company's 75-year history.

Copeland is congratulated after her debut in Swan Lake by her mentor, former ballerina Raven Wilkinson (1935-2018).

Misty Copeland's Life In Motion book cover, From the collection of: American Ballet Theatre
Show lessRead more

Since her promotion, Copeland has transcended ballet stardom and risen to fame in pop culture. She's written books...

MistyNutcrackerBillboard, From the collection of: American Ballet Theatre
Show lessRead more

...starred in movies...

Barbie Doll signing with Misty Copeland, From the collection of: American Ballet Theatre
Show lessRead more

...and even has her own Barbie Doll!

Misty Copeland with Bridge Class students by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

Through it all, Copeland remains dedicated to meeting young dancers of color around the world and inspiring them to follow their dreams.

Misty Copeland in ABT Fall 2018 video by Ezra HurwitzAmerican Ballet Theatre

Project Plié Bridge Class by Erin BaianoAmerican Ballet Theatre

Progress

ABT is working to change the face of ballet with its diversity and inclusion initiative, Project Plié.

Project Plié - ABT's Diversity & Inclusion initiativeAmerican Ballet Theatre

Project Plié DescriptionAmerican Ballet Theatre

Project Plié Bridge Class students by Erin BaianoAmerican Ballet Theatre

Talented students in New York City are invited to attend the Bridge Class at the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

Meet the Artist talk with Calvin Royal III by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

The class provides a 'bridge' between ABT and the NYC community, as well as the opportunity for young talent to work with elite faculty members and explore the possibility of a career in dance.

ABT Soloist Calvin Royal III discusses his career with ABT Summer Intensive students.

Project Plié students by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

In 2013, ABT JKO student Erica Lall was selected to receive the first Project Plié Scholarship Award in honor of the late Josephine Premice-Fales.

Erica Lall in In The Upper Room by Marty SohlAmerican Ballet Theatre

Lall is now a member of the corps de ballet and has danced featured roles in classical and repertory works with ABT on stages around the world.

ABT Summer Intensive National Training Scholar Madison Brown by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

ABT honors the legacy of dancers of color during Black History Month and strives to change the future of ballet with Project Plié. Continue exploring this slideshow to meet black artists currently dancing with ABT.

Madison Brown, a 2018-19 ABT Summer Intensive National Training Scholar

Jose Sebastian in Serenade after Plato's Symposium (2016) by Marty SohlAmerican Ballet Theatre

Jose Sebastian joined ABT's corps de ballet in 2010. He has danced leading roles in repertory works such as AFTERITE, Serenade after Plato's Symposium and Thirteen Diversions.

Courtney Lavine in AfterEffect. by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

Courtney Lavine began in the ABT Studio Company and joined the corps de ballet in 2010.

Gabe Stone Shayer in Serenade after Plato's Symposium (2016) by Rosalie O'ConnorAmerican Ballet Theatre

Gabe Stone Shayer joined ABT's corps de ballet in 2012. He won the 2016 Clive Barnes Award for Dance.

Calvin Royal III in ABT Fall 2018 video by Ezra HurwitzAmerican Ballet Theatre

Calvin Royal III in Dream within a dream (deferred) by Marty SohlAmerican Ballet Theatre

Calvin Royal III joined ABT in 2011 and was promoted to Soloist in 2017. His leading roles include Espada in Don Quixote and von Rothbart in Swan Lake.

Brooklyn Mack in Le Corsaire Pas de Deux by Carlos QuezadaAmerican Ballet Theatre

Brooklyn Mack trained with ABT Studio Company in 2005. ABT welcomes Mack as a Guest Artist in June 2019. See him perform in Le Corsaire at the Met: https://bit.ly/2RczFgC

Official ABT LogoAmerican Ballet Theatre

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Black History and Culture
The past, present, and future of the Black experience in the United States
View theme
Google apps