If you haven’t already seen Misty Copeland’s new ad for Under Armour, you have probably been living under a rock for the past week. The muscular beauty, who made her name as the first female African-American soloist with ABT, proves that ballet is more than tutus and tiaras in this gritty, striking commercial for the popular sportswear brand, which recently named Copeland as their latest spokesmodel. And boy, did they choose well.
When I first saw Misty Copeland dance in ABT’s Swan Lake a few summer’s ago, I’ll be honest- I didn’t think much of her. Clouded by the hype of her famous name, and skewed by the talents that surrounded her onstage, I remember being slightly underwhelmed by Miss Misty. Fast-forward 3 years, I’m following an old dance friend from RI on this season’s series of So You Think You Can Dance, and sitting next to Nigel So-and-So, is a woman so graceful even in her judge’s chair, she almost danced as she sat. First I noticed her toned biceps, then her delicate collarbones. She swiveled in her chair, and her calves suggested a runner, but her ballerina bun contended otherwise. Her gracefully athletic, elegantly powerful build gave away her identity before she even spoke; It could only be the unlikely ballerina whose story of “adversity and grace” she penned into a best-selling novel, her infamously strong and “un-ballerina-like” body heightening the debate of whether or not ballet is considered a sport. I was quickly impressed by the insightful constructive criticism she had for each dancer on the show, and the eloquence with which she delivered her comments. Just like that, in the most unexpected of mediums, Misty Copeland became someone I admired.
Only a few weeks later, Ms. Copeland’s much-awaited commercial for Under Armour was released, and my adoration grew. The ad supposedly crushes the debate over whether or not ballet is a sport, featuring the voice of a young girl reading real rejection letters received by a younger Misty, as Copeland herself cuts through the stage with all the strength and power of a professional athlete. Of course, it begins with a slow, controlled, relevé, displaying a level of poise only possessed by a prima ballerina. So in the great debate of ballet: Art or sport? A little of both? What do you think?