A Ballerina's Tale

"A Ballerina's Tale" is the story of Misty Copeland – the first black woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre's 75-year history.

Part of the event

A Ballerina’s Tale is a feature documentary on Misty Copeland’s extraordinary rise to stardom. She became the first black woman to be promoted to the principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Copeland was able to make this historic rise despite a potentially career-ending injury, resistance to diversification and body image standards set by the elite in the ballet world.

Directed by Nelson George, the film begins with archival, VHS footage of a young Copeland at a small ballet studio in San Pedro, California, and maps her experience as a black person in a predominantly white ballet world. The documentary also explores Copleand’s experience as she recovered from a leg fracture that could have cut her career short.

In a film review for Variety, Scott Tobias notes that the most intimate moments in the film come when George captures the physical and psychological difficulties of her recovery. “Her tolerance for pain is remarkable – her shin was so withered at the time of The Firebird (her first production for the ABT), it could have snapped in half – and George witnesses the ache and uncertainty behind the scenes, even when a seemingly triumphant comeback performance sows doubts backstage,” says Tobias.

The film peaks with Copeland’s landmark performance in the American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. Her stellar performance led audience members and fans to call Copeland the true Black Swan. The documentary features Copeland’s friends, supporters and management team who all speak her significance and the cultural impact that Copeland has made on ballet and popular culture. In 2015, Copeland was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time.

*This film will be screened at the Design Indaba FilmFest 2016 in Cape Town as part of the Design Indaba Festival. The FilmFest will take place at the various locations across the country. Watch out for our programme for more information and tickets.

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