Misty Copeland & Brooklyn Mack to Make Historic Debut in Swan Lake
For the first time in dance history, a major company will perform the ballet “Swan Lake” with two African-American lead dancers — Misty Copeland will take on the lead as Odette/Odile, while her love interest, Prince Siegfried, will be danced by the Washington Ballet Theatre’s Brooklyn Mack. The two will effectively shatter the all-white stereotype of “Swan Lake,” the most traditional of ballets.
Black dancers have been rare in leading ballet roles with major companies, especially in classical works such as “Swan Lake,” in which the star is traditionally white and waiflike.
Copeland said in a statement: “It certainly goes against traditional casting. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to show that African American ballerinas can also conform to the traditional vision for a swan as feminine and sylph-like while also being artistically and physically powerful.”
Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, called the event history in the making, and said that it challenges the paradigms about how principal dancers in classical roles should look.
“The ballet world has had a history of a glass ceiling of sorts for African-American male dancers to a degree but certainly ballerinas,“ said Webre. “So it’s been exciting to question the notion of what Swan Lake should be about!”
The Washington Ballet production of “Swan Lake” debuts in April 2015.
Something rare is happening in the world of ballet: At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., two African-American dancers will be the leads in The Washington Ballet’s production of Swan Lake: Misty Copeland, soloist with American Ballet Theatre, will dance the dual role of Odette and Odile, while Brooklyn Mack of The Washington Ballet will dance Prince Siegfried.
Copeland and Mack have something in common that is also rare for young African-Americans: teachers who saw their potential early on and broke the unwritten rule that all ballet dancers must look alike.