One wonders if Misty Copeland lives en pointe. And she probably does. Her strong thin legs and gracefully built arms have taken the shape of ballet’s choreography. Seeing Misty in real life your mind immediately jumps to the idea that you are meeting a living legacy, one that “dances with her eyes” and shines once in every generation. It’s that much more special to find one of the world’s most renowned ballerinas in San Pedro, also my adopted hometown. What most people don’t realize about San Pedro is its small-big-city flair. Misty is in many ways its reflection – a San Pedro hometown sweetheart, international artist and successful game changer.
And then there’s Cindy Bradley, Misty’s first ballet teacher and the Artistic Director of San Pedro City Ballet. Her vision for Misty’s future in ballet is just as spectacular. Styling a red bob haircut, piercing eyes and a soft artistic voice, Cindy is the Anna Wintour of ballet. Today her school is newly adorned with a bright commissioned Misty Copeland mural and surrounded with a dozen (or more) white roses carried like Olympic torches by aspiring ballerinas. News cameras have also lined up to catch a glimpse of Misty. But it’s the local crowd who is waiting with open arms for their favorite ballerina to take the stage at the press conference which will unveil 13th and Pacific Street as the Misty Copeland Square, the corner where Misty’s first ballet school sits.
“This is insane,” Misty shares with the crowd. “Growing up, San Pedro was the only place I considered home; it was the only place where I felt a real connection with the community. No matter what platform I’m speaking on, I always give credit to this incredible, small, warm community that made me the person that I am today.”
“Wait for Me,” a song performance and dedication by Wolf Bradley and the music band 20 Eyes, surprises the audience with a spark of talent. The upbeat, fun and inspiring song emphasizes the continuing heartfelt brotherly relationship between the Bradleys’ and Misty. Holding hands with her, on Wolf’s right arm are imprinted the words, “Crazies never die.” It wouldn’t be too surprising if Wolf’s future plans will continue Misty’s legacy on the music platform.
Soon after the emotional inauguration the crowd gathers to see Misty Copeland and 50 aspiring ballerinas perform in a unique master class at Hollywood’s vintage Warner Grand Theater. It’s inspiring to see Misty step on stage and take command of ballet. “Focus,” Copeland tells them. “Don’t pay any attention to the audience.” The ballerinas sporting white tights and black leotards shine like jewels under the bright lights. Misty encourages the fluidity of their movements, adjusts their port de bras, dégagé and center work variations.
“There are no straight elbows in ballet,” Misty emphasizes throughout the one hour and a half class. “I know, it’s hard. What separates professionals from students is the way they’re able to express themselves through their upper body.” A few of her other tips? “When moving fast your muscles need to be relaxed, not tense; make sure your feet are singing, so you’re not just exercising,” and most importantly, “conserve your energy so that you can become an artist.”
When used wisely, the mirror becomes ballet’s most important training tool. But tonight the ballerinas reflection was an audience who whether for curiosity’s sake or passion for this art form, they were trying to emulate and admire, at least in spirit, Misty’s variations. Cindy’s inspiration to host a ballet master class performance is remarkably unique. For many fans or aspiring dancers, this is the closest opportunity they will ever have to learn from Misty’s success. Patrick Bradley, Artistic Director of San Pedro City Ballet and also Misty’s first dance mentor, welcomes tonight to the Warner Grand Theater four kinds of audiences; the student that learns, the teacher that regards a new perspective, the choreographer that becomes inspired and the spectator who rediscovers the enthusiasm for the gentle art form of ballet.
When the curtains draw, a little African American ballerina about half Misty’s age runs across the stage. She hurries back carrying a bouquet of flowers almost as big as her. Misty hugs her and the group of 50 ballerinas. She shares with us the beauty and reality of a dream coming true. One only tries to imagine reaching the height of Misty’s success and the many ways in which she will continue to reinvent herself. After the show, she tells Cindy, “it was magical.”
Note: music band changed name in 2016 to The Habits. Visit their new website here: http://www.thehabitsband.com/