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First Black Ballerina To Head American Ballet Theater: ‘I Wanted to Open the Dialogue About Race in Ballet’

Ballerina Misty Copeland has become the first black dancer to lead a major U.S. ballet production.

According to E! News, the 32-year-old was promoted to principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theater in New York City on Tuesday, making her the first person of color to hold the position.

“This has all become more than I ever imagined,” she told the site of the achievement on Wednesday. “I wanted to open the dialogue about race in ballet and bring more people in. It’s just beautiful to see the interest that has exploded for such an incredible art form that I will forever be grateful to!”

Copeland told E! she doubted her dreams of dancing once she became an adult, as the profession isn’t known of being racially diverse.

“I wasn’t completely aware of all of that and what it meant. How deep rooted it is in this culture. So I had no apprehensions,” she said of dancing during her younger years. “But as an adult it was a scary thought. I questioned my future many times.”

She added: “All you can do is be your best self. I’ve always felt that I had to be that much more aware of how I present myself. I’m representing more than just me. I think every person should think that way.”

Copeland also warned her promotion doesn’t mean doors have suddenly opened for other black ballerinas.

“Barack Obama being President of the United States doesn’t mean racism has disappeared,” she said. “It’s all a process and we have to be aware that the work never ends.”

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