leading ladies: misty & amy

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Ballet and fashion have enjoyed a mutually propitious relationship for quite some time, volleying inspiration throughout history and resulting in some pretty amazing collaborations.  But the bond goes so much deeper than the beauty and glamour they share, and who better to showcase that bond than two of ballet and fashion’s leading ladies, ABT soloist Misty Copeland and Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Amy Astley?

If you’ve ever wondered what a conversation between these powerhouses might consist of, you’re not alone, and you’re in luck.  As part of their fantasy-indulging “Possible Conversations” series, online editorial platform, The Thick, has brought Copeland and Astley together (in a super luxe setting, to boot) for an exclusive feature.  The resulting discussion does not disappoint, diving right in passed the glitz and straight to the grit.

I was so pleased to follow the conversation into truly honest territory, in which the ladies weigh in on the juxtaposing grace and strength that can exist within a single creature.  So much of fashion pursues a seemingly unattainable “easy” chicness, and the mastery of ballet revolves around making each impossible step look natural.  One comment in particular, from Ms. Astley, really struck me:

“Whether in dance or fashion, if you can get to the top, you know you’re made of stern stuff. It’s sort of like ‘Swan Lake.’ The swan is so beautiful on the water, but underneath, the legs are working like crazy.”

When I teach ballet to younger students, this is one of my favorite examples to use.  In an attempt to calm their often rambunctious port-de-bras and shift some of that excess energy into the lower halves of their bodies, first I ask my students what a swan looks like from our point of view, gliding over the water.  “Elegant!  Soft!  Smooth!  Feathers!  One time I fed swans with my grandpa!”…you always get that one giggle-inducing response.  Then, I ask them to show me what a swan’s feet and legs are doing under the water, and their rollicking interpretations never fail to spread a smile across my face.  It’s such an accurate illustration of the work that goes into making something look effortlessly beautiful, and the fact that Ms. Astley used this comparison to link fashion and ballet just makes me love the special connection between them that much more.

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The ballet world can feel so isolating, with its strong focus on physical aesthetics and that winding road towards an impervious perfection, but an inside look at the fashion industry lends comfort in its lipstick-masked strength.  Amy and Misty cover so many relevant topics, comparing views on beauty, art, femininity and what happens when you’re just a tad bit of a glutton for punishment (sound familiar, anyone?).  I highly recommend playing fly-on-the-gorgeously-bookshelved-sapphire-wall of this Possible Conversation.

photos c/o The Thick.

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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.   o-MISTY-COPELAND-UNDER-ARMOUR-570

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?

photos via here and here