The ballet world I don't think is an art form that is quick to change or to adjust or evolve.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Profession: Dancer
Nationality: American

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Every time I dance, I'm trying to prove myself to myself.

When I was 16, I moved to Torrance, California to train at a more advanced studio, and by 19, I joined the American Ballet Theatre in New York. It all happened so fast - it was pretty unheard of that someone could train for so few years and become a professional at one of the most elite dance companies in the United States.

Being in ballet class, being on the stage, being surrounded by my peers at American Ballet Theater every day, keeps me so humble and grounded. Being in ballet class, I feel, is like this meditation for me every morning.

It's hard to be the one that stands out when, you know, in a ballet company, you're trying to create unison and uniform when you're in a corps de ballet.

I've always approached my career and my life, you know, one day at a time, as if this was the last day that I'm going, because you never know as an athlete and as a dancer. You never know what can happen today, tomorrow.

Don't hold on to the barre like, 'I might die.' It's just ballet.

The classical ballet world is so exclusive and small, and a lot of people don't know about it.

Though I have tremendous support from lots of people, there are so many others waiting to tear me down.

I didn't want to be the best at anything; I just wanted to blend in. And that was kind of my existence throughout my family experiences at home of just kind of blending in in the background through my other siblings, which was easy to do.

I want the ballet world to be given the respect that it deserves and to be seen by more people - for so many to experience the beauty that I've received from the ballet world.

Depending on the level you're at in your company, the higher you go up in rank, usually the longer you can dance.

Every time I step onto the stage, it's not only proving to the audience that I'm capable but to myself.

I think most people think of ballerinas as kind of either as a fairytale, far-away thing that's really not attainable, something they can't grasp, or they think of them as European or Russian and kind of their nose up in the air. So, it's cool for me to, like, sit with them and for them to really see themselves as me.

When it came to my childhood - growing up in a single-parent home, often struggling financially - my mother definitely instilled in me and my siblings this strength, this will, to just continue to survive and succeed.