“I’m so Grateful to Ballet”

June 5, 2019  • Institute Staff

The 2018 Preston Robert Tisch Award in Civic Leadership was presented to ballet dancer Misty Copeland at a program at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center in November. Copeland, the first African American to be promoted to principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater, spoke with Damian Woetzel, the former director of the Institute’s Arts Program and current president of the Juilliard School, about dance and her life as a role model for young women of color. She talked about her path to ballet through classes at the Boys and Girls Club of America and how she came to understand what arts can do for a child after traveling to Rwanda with MindLeaps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to change through education and dance. She said part of her purpose in life is to make things better for young people. “Role models have always been so important to me,” she explained, adding that dancers of color need to see teachers and performers who look like them. “I’m so grateful to ballet. I receive a lot in the studio, and I give a lot back when I meet with young people.”