Last Week Misty Copeland Became the First African American Principal Dancer at ABT and Now She’s Taking Over Broadway

Fresh off making history last week when she became the first ever African American ballerina to be named principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is now slated for her Broadway debut. She’ll be starring in Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 musical On theTown as Ivy Smith, taking over for New York Ballet principle dancer Megan Fairchild. Originating from the Jerome Robbins ballet before having its premiere at the American Ballet Theatre in 1944, On the Town follows a group of sailors over the course of a single day in New York City. Performing in a limited run, Copeland will play a woman who falls in love with one of the sailors—a role that originally played by Japanese-American ballerina Sono Osato, which Time reports was “part of a deliberate creative choice to make the ballet racially diverse.” 

Speaking to the announcement, , Copeland said:

“I was contacted by them and they actually wanted me to go in pretty quickly, and it was all just ‘Oh my gosh, this is not something I ever thought I would do…If I’m going to be part of a Broadway show, I think this is the one.” … “It’s so strong and rich with the dancing, and it’s such an incredible role,” Copeland said. “Jerome Robbins was such an incredible part of ABT’s history, so it makes total sense.”

Directed by Christopher Wheeldon and starring New York Ballet principle dancer Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope of the Royal Ballet in London, Copeland will take to the stage alongside them from August 25 to September 6. The role will require Copeland to dance, and act, the latter of which will be a first for her—but that shouldn’t be a problem for the groundbreaking performer. Copeland recalls Taye Diggs (who will soon take on the role of Hedwig in in Hedwig and the Angry Inch) telling her, “I think you’ve got this,” after seeing her performer as Juliet in Ballet Theater’s Romeo and Juliet earlier this year.

“It’s such a beautiful time right now, I think, for dance, and especially for ballet and bringing it to a much broader audience,” Copeland told the NY Times. “I always say that it has changed my life, and it’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of — and I think people are realizing that, a new generation is realizing that. It’s so exciting.”

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