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The Dance Enthusiast Hits the Streets: Misty Copeland & Carmen de Lavallade Teach Ballet Class at Harlem Stage

The Dance Enthusiast Hits the Streets: Misty Copeland & Carmen de Lavallade Teach  Ballet Class at Harlem Stage
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
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Published on November 27, 2017
photo by Marc Millman

10 + Things I Am (Thankfully) Still Learning From Ballet Class

If I close my eyes, I can almost picture my young self in tights, leotards, and soft slippers standing at the barre and anxiously anticipating my teacher’s demonstration of our first exercise. In no way, was I ever as composed as the students of the Harlem School for the Arts and the Dance Theatre of Harlem who recently participated in an open-to-the-public class and given by two icons of the dance field: Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theater’s 75-year-old history, and Carmen de Lavallade, the lithe, 86-years-young, soon-to-be Kennedy Center Honors Awardee, whose storied career on stage and in film has influenced so many.

In her welcome remarks, Patricia Cruz, the executive director of Harlem Stage and host of this special class, reminded us that arts organizations like hers are “peddlers of hope” in a world full of turmoil.

She is onto something.

Misty Copeland and Students / photo by Marc Millman

Back when I was in balletic uniform, life seemed kinder. I can’t imagine being a kid today when “normal” means being bombarded with images of mass shootings, drug addiction, disrespect for others' bodies, and hateful discourse —even from trusted leaders. This barrage is assaulting to all, no matter our age.

But, solace can be found in art, whether we experience Misty Copeland dancing Giselle, or watch her teaching a class to pupils at the beginning of their dance training. Such experiences remind us that beyond the persistent noise, a determination to pursue beauty and substance still exists, and is honored.

While the focus of this afternoon’s class was on the promising ballet students — tomorrow’s leaders, whether on stage or in another realm — Copeland’s and de Lavallade’s masterful lessons can benefit all of us (even those who have long ago put away their tights and ballet slippers). Thankfully we are never too old to be inspired and enriched as we dance through life.

Misty Copeland and Students / photo by Marc Millman

10 + 1 Things I am Still Learning from Ballet Class with Thanks to Misty Copeland and Carmen de Lavallade:


1. Loosen Up, Have Fun, Learn Something New!


2. Keep Your Body Safe.   


3. What You Do at the Barre, Prepares You to Dance in the Center of the Floor. (Our habits and our pursuits prepare us or detract us from our our life’s work, our dance. Consider your preparations wisely.)


4. Get Used to Switching Legs, Because That’s What Happens When You Are Dancing. (Don’t rely on only one way, method or viewpoint. The dance of life often requires quick changes.)

Misty Copeland Teaching Class/ Photo by Marc Millan


5.You Have to be Able to stand on Your Own Two Feet. (While you can rest your hand on the barre for support) Ultimately, It’s Up to You to Do the Work.


6. Be As BIG As You Possibly Can Be.


7. Realize that EVERYONE, Professionals and Students, Must Begin at the Beginning Everyday.


Misty Copeland Teaching Class/ Photo by Marc Millan


8. Your Teachers Don’t Know All the Answers.


9. Ask questions.


10. Treasure Your Inner Light and Imagination. They are Your Unique Gifts to Share.


11. When You Can’t Move, Use Your Powers of Listening and Observation to Grow.


Misty Copeland (center) performed in the Washington Ballet production of Swan Lake in April 2015.
Emily Jan/NP


The Dance Enthusiast Hits The Streets To Discover What is Going On Behind The Scenes in The Dance World

Read More of Our Dance Enthusiast Hits The Streets Articles in our Day In The Life of Dance Section,  Here.


Read more Harlem Stage Stories on The Dance Enthusiast

Carmen de Lavallade on her Kennedy Center Honors Award


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