The stunning Misty Copeland is once again changing up the way we look at the world of ballet and art. The first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Copeland’s unlikely rise to fame has not stopped her from becoming one of the most inspirational dance stories of our time. In a new photo shoot done in collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar, Copeland recreates some of Edgar Degas’ iconic ballet artworks, exploring the intricacies within the world of dance.
Degas created many pieces that celebrate the beauty of ballet. Foregoing the idealized images of delicate creatures on stage, Degas typically focused on the labour, athleticism, and the training process involved by painting what went on backstage. He carved out a place within this niche, finding a freedom to focus on the reality that resides behind the effortless appearance on stage. This mentality resonates with Copeland and many ballet dancers (such as those featured in the NYC Dance Project), who are familiar with the hours spent rehearsing until perfection, where one’s determination is the sole motivator.
For Copeland, relinquishing control for the photo shoot was admittedly a bit of a challenge. In her interview with Bazaar, she explains, “Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult. It was amazing just to notice all of the small details but also how he still allows you to feel like there’s movement. That’s what I think is so beautiful and difficult about dance too. You’re trying to strive for this perfection, but you still want people to get that illusion that your line never ends and that you never stop moving.”
The shoot itself was coordinated in anticipation of an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Titled Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty, the exhibit opens March 26 and runs through July 24, exploring the artist’s extensive collection of paintings and drawings.