Independent Lens: A Ballerina's Tale

About This Episode


Few dancers reach the elite level of ballet; of that already small number only a fraction are black women. Misty Copeland shattered those barriers in 2015, making history as the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). A Ballerina’s Tale documents Copeland’s rise while shining a light on the absence of women of color at major ballet companies. The film also explores how ballet’s emphasis on waifish bodies impacts the health of ballerinas while sending a negative message to young fans.

Born in Kansas City, and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland did not begin studying ballet until the relatively late age of 13. In 2000, she joined ABT's Studio Company, and the following year became a member of its Corps de Ballet. In 2013, she was offered the lead role in Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird," a major coup for a soloist. The night of the Firebird performance Misty danced beautifully, but later revealed she'd been performing in great pain; her left shin suffered six fractures and required corrective surgery. Many doubted she would ever dance again.

A Ballerina's Tale follows Misty's journey, from the triumph of "Firebird" to the injury and painful road back to the American Ballet Theatre stage, and emergence as a star in the process.