A celebrated African-American ballet dancer’s account of her unlikely rise to stardom.
Home was a relative term for Copeland. Her mother left her father when she was 2 and took the family from Kansas City to Southern California. There, they moved in with a man who was an alcoholic. Several years later, the author’s mother took her children and moved in with another man who ruled the family home with a stern, and sometimes brutal, hand. In this new environment, Copeland, who loved to perform, discovered that she could also “instantly do moves that it might take others months to achieve.” She began to teach herself gymnastics and, in middle school, became the drill team captain. Encouraged to take ballet classes at the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, Copeland learned basic ballet movement with astonishing rapidity. “I began hearing a word over and over again…that would follow me, define me,” she writes. “Prodigy.” But as her dancing flourished, her home life began to crumble. Soon, she, her mother and siblings had moved into a crowded motel room. A ballet teacher brought Copeland to live with her and prepare “for the career that was looming for [her].” Under pressure from her increasingly outraged mother, the courts forced the woman to return the girl to her home. By then, Copeland’s talent had brought her media attention and offers to attend schools sponsored by prestigious dance companies. One, the American Ballet Theatre, eventually became her permanent home. As Copeland learned, however, her dream to dance ballet and become a soloist for the ABT came at a high price, both physically and emotionally. Copeland’s depiction of the drive that pushed her to succeed in a white-dominated art form is inspiring, but she often overplays her narrative hand to the point where self-assurance comes across as smugness or arrogance.
Interesting but self-congratulatory reading.