Misty Copeland has doubled down on her response to those who criticized her performance in Swan Lake after she failed to perform the ballet’s famously tricky 32 fouette turns—suggesting that in ballet, too, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The ballerina, 35, performed in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet earlier this month in Singapore. She danced the part of Odile, which includes a famous sequence that sees Odile completes 32 fouette turns.
Those 32 fouette turns, during which with one of the dancer’s legs never touches the ground and propels her as she spins around on pointe, are considered to be one of the hardest, most challenging sequences in ballet.
Message: Misty Copeland has doubled down on her response to those who criticized her performance in Swan Lake after she failed to perform the ballet’s famously tricky 32 fouette turns. She is pictured as Odette in an archive shot
Part: The ballerina (pictured in an archive image), 35, performed in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet earlier this month in Singapore.
Instead of completing the 32 turns, Misty did 12, before filling up the rest of the allotted time with an alternative choreography.
Some proceeded to slam her performance, branding it ‘terrible’, with one person declaring it reflects reflects ‘very poorly’ on the American Ballet Theatre, for which Misty is a principal dancer.
Misty responded to her critics on social media, sharing a link to a video of her performance on Instagram and explaining she was ‘a work in progress’ and ‘by no means the best in ballet’.
She has now addressed the issue once more, telling Cosmopolitan some viewers are bound to focus on technical prowess, rather than on the artistry of a performance.
‘I just try not to get caught up in reviews and reading things on the internet because they don’t know you and people don’t know your journey and I think that especially in America, especially in New York, when people come to see ballet, I think everyone kind of feels like they’re a critic,’ she told the magazine.
Technique: Misty danced the part of Odile (she is pictured in a file photo as the character), which includes 32 famously tricky fouette turns
Moves: When time came for Misty to complete the 32 turns, she did 12, before performing an alternative choreography to fill up the allotted time. Misty is pictured in a YouTube video of the moment
Misty insisted that imperfection, in her view, plays an important part in shaping the beauty of ballet—even if some viewers might not see it that way.
‘They’re not just walking in to enjoy the beauty that we’re trying to bring to them but caught up in whether or not you’re going to be perfect, and I think that’s what’s so beautiful about what we do, is that we’re not [perfect]!’ she added.
‘You’re coming to see live theater, it’s not edited! Anything can happen in those moments.’
As a professional, Misty said she finds it ‘exciting’ to learn how to bounce back from ‘things that may go wrong in the moment’.
After someone posted a video of her performance on YouTube, Misty chose to discuss the moment openly on social media, because she thought it was important to her to set a positive example when it comes to handling criticism.
You’re coming to see live theater, it’s not edited! Anything can happen in those moments
‘I felt like it was really important for me to be an example of how to respond to the negativity that I know every young person experiences, especially with social media these days,’ she added.
‘As an artist, you have to be sensitive and you have to be vulnerable, but at the same time, you can’t let those things affect your performance, so I wanted to show that you can learn from these things, whether they’re negative or positive and I wanted to show there’s a positive way if you want to address these people, your critics, whoever is saying things about you who doesn’t even know you.’
Some of the most famous ballerinas in history, including Anna Pavlova, chose to perform alternative moves in order to avoid the dreaded choreography, much like Misty did when performing in Singapore.
The 32 fouette turns ‘aren’t the hardest assignment in ballet, but they’re the most exposed example of virtuoso technique,’ New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay wrote previously. ‘If something goes wrong, the audience will see.’
While the moves Misty performed in lieu of the expected 32 fouettes remained graceful and might have be undetectable by untrained eyes, some viewers blasted her performance after viewing a YouTube clip of the moment.
‘Her inability to execute the choreography reflects very poorly on the company,’ one person wrote in reference to the American Ballet Theatre, for which Misty is a principal dancer.
Another person branded the incident ‘terrible and embarrassing’, while one viewer called it ‘a disgrace’.
Comments: Some viewers blasted her performance, and Misty later shared a screenshot of an inflammatory tweet on her Instagram account
Statement: Misty shared a post on Instagram explaining that she doesn’t think she is ‘the best in ballet’ and remains ‘a work in progress’. She also added the link to the YouTube video of the moment to her profile
However, several people said they couldn’t pinpoint the mishap, and thought the performance was admirable regardless of whether Misty performed the 32 fouettes or not.
‘To the naked, untrained eye this looks magnificent, I’m not even sure what the issue is. Maybe people should stop being so hyper critical,’ one viewer wrote. ‘Keep dancing beautifully!’
Another person added: ‘Just because she’s one of the best in the business does not mean that she has to be perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and I think to see someone as influential as Misty Copeland slip up is actually beautiful. Imperfection is beautiful.’
As for Misty herself, she took to Instagram to acknowledge what happened, and posted a screenshot of an incendiary tweet along with her response.
The tweet she screen-grabbed states: ‘THIS is why @mistyonpointe is the WORST and why it’s an embarrassment to @ABTBallet to even have her on the roster, much less as a principal dancer. No wonder the rest of the world thinks American ballet is a joke.’
I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet
Misty posted the same screenshot of the tweet twice, each time attaching a different statement and pointing out she had posted the link to the YouTube video of the moment in her Instagram profile.
The link still appears at the top of her page, and Misty made it clear she is not embarrassed to spread the word about her 12 fouettes.
‘I’m happy to share this because I will forever be a work in progress and will never stop learning. I learn from seeing myself on film and rarely get to. So thank you,’ she wrote.
‘I will always reiterate that I am by no means the best in ballet. I understand my position and what I represent. I know that I’m in a very unique position and have been given a rare platform. All I’ve ever wanted is to bring ballet to more people and to help to diversify it.
‘I’ve worked extremely hard to be where I am and I believe that what I bring to the table is authentic artistry with a unique point of view through my life experiences, and my unusual path and upbringing. Also as a black woman and black ballerina. I would love to see all of the incredible deserving black dancers get the opportunities that I have.’
Opening up: ‘I’ve worked extremely hard to be where I am and I believe that what I bring to the table is authentic artistry with a unique point of view,’ Misty wrote
Artistry: In her second Instagram post, Misty emphasized the artistic component of ballet, as opposed to pure technique
Chiming in: Misty also shared a similar comment below the YouTube video of her performance. It has since received more than 300 upvotes
Misty said she will always remained ‘humbled and extremely grateful’ for getting to dance for a living and dance ‘incredible roles’, such as that of the Swan Queen.
‘There are so many ballerinas that never get to experience dancing the most iconic and demanding role in a ballerinas repertoire,’ she added.
‘I have so so so much respect for what I do and for the ballerinas I stand on the shoulders of. I’m in awe every day that I am a part of such an incredible art form that has changed and enriched my life in so many ways and that I get to do it all with ABT.
‘I don’t decide who’s promoted or what roles I dance. I never envisioned myself as the Swan Queen after being in the company for almost 15 years before i was given the opportunity. I have such deep and conflicting feelings connected to Swan Lake. As a black woman and as a ballerina given the chance to take on this role. I often question if I deserve to perform this role. My conclusion, I do. Some of the most memorable Swan Queens in history have brought so much more to this role without having to present the incredible and evolved technique of today by doing insane tricks that bring some to see Swan Lake. For the anticipated 32 fouettes. But it is so much more than that.’
A ballerina’s career is not, nor should be defined by how many fouettes she executes
In her second Instagram post, Misty emphasized the artistic component of ballet, as opposed to pure technique.
‘People come to see ballet for the escape. For the experience of being moved through our movement and artistry, not to score us on the technicality of what we do. This is why ballet is not a sport,’ she wrote.
‘A ballerina’s career is not, nor should be defined by how many fouettes she executes.
‘They are a part of the choreography to tell a story of pulling off the entrancement she holds over prince Siegfried. The point is to finish the 3rd act with a whirlwind movement that sucks him in just one last time before it’s revealed that Odile is not Odette.
‘This is the incredible beauty of ballet. To move people.
‘I’m happy to have this dialogue because it’s something I believe in wholeheartedly. The history of ballet and it’s origin of pure freedom and expression is what we need to hold onto. Not to come into the theater as a critic armed with judgement.
‘I do appreciate the changes in the ballet technique, focused on evolving our technical abilities, but the point is to move people and for them to understand the stories we tell through dance. And that is an incredible responsibility and opportunity I will never take for granted.’
Misty also shared a similar comment below the YouTube video of her performance. It received more than 300 upvotes.
This is not the first time Misty has modified the choreography to perform this very passage of Swan Lake.
In April 2015, a report by Bachtrack stated that she ‘completed about half of the whipping turns then transitioned seamlessly to a series of very fast single pirouettes’, a choice deemed ‘intelligent’ because it is ‘perfectly in keeping with the character’.