Misty Copeland Had A Graceful Response When Someone Criticized Her 'Swan Lake' Performance

"I will forever be a work in progress."

Nobody's perfect, not even Misty Copeland. The ballerina, who made history in 2015 as the first Black female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, recently fell short of executing the famous 32 fouettés (or turns) at the end of Swan Lake

After receiving harsh criticism on social media, Copeland posted a response that was as graceful as she is — and serves as a reminder that no one should have their hard work and talent negated by a single performance.


Copeland shared the link to a video of the performance — in which she completed 12 turns, and then improvised to fill the time — on her Instagram account, as well as a screenshot of a tweet calling her "the WORST" and "an embarrassment" to the American Ballet Theatre.

"I'm happy to share this because I will forever be a work in progress and will never stop learning. I learn from seeing myself on film and rarely get to. So thank you," Copeland wrote on Instagram and in the comments of the performance video, adding, "I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet."

"I understand my position and what I represent. I know that I'm in a very unique position and have been given a rare platform," Copeland wrote, going on to say that she is "humbled and extremely grateful" for her career, and emphasizing that she "worked extremely hard to be where I am."

She also touched on her experience as a Black ballet dancer. She said she never saw herself in the role of the Swan Queen, even after almost 15 years in the company. "As a black woman and as a ballerina given the chance to take on this role," Copeland wrote on Instagram, "I often question if I deserve to perform this role. My conclusion, I do."

It's clear that handling criticism or doubt is nothing new to Copeland. She previously addressed this in a 2016 conversation with Barack Obama. "A lot of what I've experienced has not always been to my face, or it's been very subtle," she said. "But it's in a way that I know what's going on and I feel it deep inside of me. And I, being the only African American in almost every environment in terms of classical ballet, it weighs on you and it wears on you after a while."

In her Instagram post, Copeland shared her desire to use her platform to "diversify" ballet and bring it to a wider audience, adding, "I would love to see all of the incredible deserving black dancers get the opportunities that I have."

Thanks to things such as her very own Barbie doll and her memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, Copeland is no doubt inspiring many young people to pursue their dreams — and to push through any obstacles or uncertainties that may stand in their way.

The dancer concluded her response by reminding those reading that ballet is not a sport, and the purpose of the art form is "not to score us on the technicality of what we do," but rather "to move people," adding, "A ballerinas career is not, nor should be defined by how many fouettés she executes."

See video of Copeland performing the turns below:

(H/T: Teen Vogue)

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