A free ballet class that Misty Copeland took when she was 13 years old led the ballerina to her abundant career, and in 2015 she became the first Black woman to be a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre––the highest position in a ballet company. Now, Copeland is paying it forward by launching her own free after-school ballet program for children between the ages of 8 to 10.
Called BE BOLD, the program began this month in New York City at two Boys and Girls Clubs, reports Smithsonian Magazine. Students will be trained in ballet, music, and health. Teachers are trained by the National Dance Institute, and Copeland strives to admit several hundred students this year, and thousands in years to come.
Copeland’s motivation behind the program is to change who has access to the world of ballet; historically, it’s been predominantly white. “I really want to hold onto the beautiful aspects of ballet—the discipline, the creativeness—and get rid of those old, stereotypical things that don’t make for a good experience, especially for Black and Brown children,” said Copeland in an interview with New York Times’ Javier C. Hernández.
“It’s so important for me to give back to the community, as well as to show people that ballet should be and can be inclusive,” she said. “It’s giving opportunities to people that don’t feel that they are included in this elite art form, and offering a new approach to what ballet can look like.”
The program’s website explains how BE BOLD is meeting a demand for the arts within underserved communities: “In creating BE BOLD, Copeland aims to build upon her own formative experience at the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club and to advance young children and meet their developmental needs. There is immense unmet need for quality after school programs in the United States, and the unmet demand disproportionately impacts communities of color. Further, current access to formal dance instruction, in general, and ballet, in particular, is a matter of chance for children in under-resourced communities.”
Learn more about BE BOLD’s mission and how you can get involved by visiting mistycopelandfoundation.org.