Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by savanah. savanah Wonders, “Who is Misty Copeland” Thanks for WONDERing with us, savanah!

Do you love to dance? Are you always the first to learn the newest dances on social media? Maybe you love classics like the jitterbug. Many kids love the feeling of moving to their favorite music!

To many people, though, dance isn’t just a fun pastime. Some turn it into a career! Today’s Wonder of the Day is about one such person—Misty Copeland!

Who is Misty Copeland? Today, she’s a famous ballerina, author, and fitness advisor. But in 1995, she was just a thirteen-year-old kid living in San Pedro, California. That year, she pulled on her first pair of ballet slippers and found her passion for dance.

Copeland’s first ballet training was at the Boys & Girls Club. There, she took a class with dance coach Cynthia Bradley. Copeland’s natural talent was quickly obvious. Her coach urged her to start classes at the San Pedro Ballet School. 

The young dancer had moved to San Pedro with her family from Kansas City, Missouri. She and her five siblings were living with their mother in a motel when Copeland started dancing. As she continued to train, she decided to move in with Cynthia Bradley and her family. She did so to be closer to her dance studio.

Despite Copeland’s talent, the odds were stacked against her in many ways. At 13, she was starting to dance much later than most ballerinas. She also faced racial discrimination and pressure to lose weight from people in the ballet world. She couldn’t even find ballet slippers that matched her skin color—instead, she dyed her own.

A custody battle between her mother and coach further complicated matters. At age 15, Copeland moved back in with her family. She continued to practice ballet. In 2000, she earned a full scholarship to train as part of  the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). 

This was only the beginning for Copeland. She shone at ABT and performed lead roles in countless shows. In 2009, she appeared in a music video with pop icon Prince. In 2014, Barack Obama added her to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Then, in 2015, Copeland became ABT’s first Black female principal dancer.

Copeland has worked hard to make the ballet world more inclusive. She helped set up Project Plié, which trains dance teachers in racially diverse communities. She has also urged ballet shoe makers to create a wider range of flesh-tone colored shoes for dancers of many skin colors.

In 2017, Copeland published the book Ballerina Body. In it, she talked about the importance of mental strength in ballet. She also shared a message about body positivity. Copeland stressed that it’s skill and hard work, not body type, that make a ballerina.

Do you dream of gliding across the ballet stage one day? Would you rather moonwalk or twist for screaming fans? However you like to move, turn on some music and dance today. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll make a career of it!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, NCAS.A.2,

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