Born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland began her ballet studies at the late age of thirteen. She studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive on full scholarship and was declared ABT’s National Coca-Cola Scholar in 2000. Misty joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000, joined American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001, and in August 2007 became the company’s second African American female Soloist and the first in two decades. In June 2015, Misty was promoted to principal dancer, making her the first African American woman to ever be promoted to the position in the company’s 75-year history. Misty is the author of the memoir Life In Motion, a picture book titled Firebird and most recently the book Ballerina Body.
The Gugulethu Ballet Project unites art and service by partnering with dance communities to expand opportunities for disadvantaged children in the townships of South Africa. For more than 12 years, former American Ballet Theatre soloist Kristine Elliott and over 25 professional dance teachers and choreographers have taught life skills through ballet to hundreds of children in 10 dance schools in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Ballet enhances a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development by emphasizing respect for the body, self discipline, and expressive artistry. Students supported by the GBP program have won scholarships for training in the United States, opened their own dance schools in South Africa, and enjoyed professional dance careers in Europe.