Misty Copeland broke all the rules in regards to becoming a ballerina. She started late.She developed breasts. She is black.
She is the most amazing dancer I have ever seen.
There are in no particular order - though the first one is the oldest, when she was a teenager. Once I started looking for images of her dancing - there are more videos about her than of her - I fell down a rabbithole for a few hours. Alone, reacting to a musician, or in a pas de deux - her physicality and musculature, the quirks of her body, the way she uses it to speak - all of these things set her apart as a dancer of note. It is a visible, visual reminder that what we see as our deficiencies and flaws will actually be the thing which makes us most fully ourselves and set us apart form everyone else. This is a world where people try to sand off our edges, round out and universalize our lives and self-expression, and Copeland's differences highlight why this is undermines us, both individually and as a culture.
I found myself fascinated watching not only Copeland's story but also the other stories of dancers of color in her A Ballerina's Tale. The intense focus on a woman's body in the context of appearance and work both is also fascinating to me; so often women are shown passively, reclining, as hangers as much as people - one aspect of dance is the physicality which demands musculature and strength, and a physicality which can transcend body type. I'm reminded of Sabrina Bryan being eliminated after a perfect 30 from the judges - the audience rejected her - and can't help thinking her - contributed to the lack of support she received from the audience.
Watching Copeland embody the physicality of her roll - go from slim, wide-shouldered person in the world to a fully made up, coiffed, and dressed ballerina is an amazing thing - an amazing transformation. The arch and bend and flow of her body at work and at rest, the way it has made itself to respond to a demanding craft, the moment when she goes from backstage waiting to arched performer of her art - there is nothing like that particular physicality and the window it opens for the rest of us to look through, even if we can't join in.