Tracing a line directly from Wilkinson to Misty Copeland, Schubert highlights racism and prejudice in America and in ballet as well as the recent breaking of one barrier.
Wilkinson, born in 1935 to an upper-class African-American family in New York City, fell in love with classical ballet at an early age and was determined to dance. She was invited to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the age of 20. Unfortunately, touring through America’s Southern states brought danger, threats, forced segregation, and ugly encounters with the Ku Klux Klan. She left ballet briefly, then danced in Europe, before finally returning to America for a long career with the New York City Opera. Misty Copeland, recently promoted to principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre—its first African-American—credits Wilkinson as a mentor in the book’s final scene. A color photograph of the two women after Copeland’s debut performance in Swan Lake is a beautiful inspiration to young ballerinas of color. Schubert’s research included an interview with Wilkinson, quotations from which allow her to speak to readers with her own voice. Taylor’s digitized artwork depicts scenes from the rehearsal studio and the stage along with ugly episodes of Klan activity. His people are expressive, but their firm, black outlines and flat, solid coloring cause them to lack the delicacy associated with this ethereal art form.
For ballerinas in training and in spirit. (foreword, afterword, author’s note, ballet terms, partial bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)