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Two weeks ago, ballerina goddess Misty Copeland made a controversial mistake in her performance of Swan Lake. At the end of the show, Copeland was supposed to do 32 fouettés (that's a fancy ballet word for turns) in a row on her pointe shoes, but when she couldn't complete the move, she improvised to make up the time:
The fouettés at the end of Swan Lake are legendary. Alastair Macaulay, the chief dance critic for The New York Times, wrote in 2016 that "the 32 fouettés aren’t the hardest assignment in ballet, but they’re the most exposed example of virtuoso technique. If something goes wrong, the audience will see."
For reference, this is what the move is supposed to look like:
To the average ballet watcher, these clips both look beautiful, but Copeland only managed 12 fouettés, which you can see at the beginning of the clip The rest of her dance was improvised. Some people felt like this wasn't a good enough performance, as proven by the tweet Copeland screenshotted and shared in an Instagram addressing the heat she's been taking on Twitter for the mistake.
Copeland put the link to the video of the mistake in her profile, and she wrote in her caption "I’m happy to share this because I will forever be a work in progress and will never stop learning."
Link in my profile. 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. A ballerinas career is not, nor should be defined by how many fouettés 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 whole heartedly. 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 theatre 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.
A post shared by Misty Copeland (@mistyonpointe) on Mar 28, 2018 at 4:04am PDT
Copeland responded to this idea of growth in her caption, saying "There are so many ballerinas that never get to experience dancing the most iconic and demanding role in a ballerinas repertoire. I have so so so much respect for what I do and for the ballerinas I stand on the shoulders of."
She also wrote that she appreciates the unique platform she's been giving as a dancer, but particularly as a woman of color. "I will forever be humbled and extremely grateful for the fact that I get to do what I love for a living, that I get to do all of the incredible roles that I do, in particular Swan Queen."
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