I never thought of myself as special or particularly good at anything. But once I started ballet, suddenly I had a new identity: prodigy.

Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland

Profession: Dancer
Nationality: American

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Once you become a professional, to get through a ballet like 'Swan Lake' - four acts as the lead, changing character - the perseverance is incredible. It takes a lot to make it through and keep the same energy throughout the entire performance.

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.

I wake up every morning, and I go to ballet class no matter what's going on the night before. That's my priority, and that's what makes me feel sane and not removed from the realities of my world.

What you put into your body is just as important as how hard you dance. I believe with the right training and an understanding of how to take care of your body, you can mold it to be whatever you want it to be.

I wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It's just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to!

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

I want to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in ballet, and feel like that's a large part of my purpose.

My family didn't have very much money, so ballet wasn't even on my radar; I just found it randomly when I was 13 at a Boys & Girls Club. We were practicing in a basketball court in gym clothes with some old socks on. Even though it terrified me at first, I found that I really liked it.

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

I say over and over again that I am just standing on the shoulders of so many who have set this path for me, and they may not be seen or recognized or have been given an opportunity to have a voice, but I'm here representing all of those dancers. Dance Theatre of Harlem Virginia Johnson, Tai Jimenez, Lauren Anderson.

Barack Obama being President of the United States doesn't mean racism has disappeared. It's all a process, and we have to be aware that the work never ends.

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

I didn't care how much work it would take, and I didn't see the time invested as a waste or like I was missing out on anything. Ballet became my ultimate passion.

As a child, I had been told that I was exactly what a ballerina should be.