A Ballerina’s Tale
February 8, 10 pm

A Ballerina's Tale

  • BY Nelson George | IN Dance
    Premiered February 8, 2016

About the Film

Few dancers reach the elite level of ballet; of that already small number only a fraction are black women. Misty Copeland shattered those barriers in 2015, making history as the first African American principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre (ABT).

A Ballerina’s Tale intimately documents Copeland’s historic rise while shining a light on the absence of women of color at major ballet companies. The film also explores how ballet’s emphasis on waifish bodies impacts the health of ballerinas while sending a negative message to young fans. MORE

Born in Kansas City, and raised in San Pedro, California, Misty Copeland did not begin studying ballet until the relatively late age of 13. In 2000, she joined ABT's Studio Company, and the following year became a member of ABT’s Corps de Ballet. She continued to rise within the company, becoming a soloist in August 2007. In 2013, she was offered the lead role in Igor Stravinsky's challenging Firebird, to be performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, a major coup for a soloist.

The night of the Firebird performance Misty danced beautifully, but later revealed she'd been performing in great pain. Soon she would learn that her left shin suffered six fractures and required corrective surgery. Many doubted she would ever dance again. A Ballerina's Tale follows Misty's journey, from the triumph of Firebird to the injury and painful road back to the American Ballet Theatre stage, and emergence as a star in the process.

The Filmmaker

Nelson George is an author, filmmaker, television producer, and critic with a long career in analyzing and presenting the diverse elements of African American culture. His directorial debut, the critically-acclaimed HBO movie Life Support, stars Queen Latifah, and looks at the effects of HIV on a troubled black family in his native Brooklyn. He's published numerous non-fiction books on black music history as well as a series of novels using the music world as a backdrop, including The Lost Treasures of R&B. Since 2013, George has completed VH1’s rock doc Finding the Funk, Showtime’s Brooklyn Boheme, ESPN’s The Announcement, and All Hail the Beat, a short film for the Focus Forward campaign.


Film Credits

Directed by
Nelson George

Produced by
Leslie Norville

Co-Produced by
Andrew Herwitz

Jon Dunham
Nicholas Waterman

Edited by
Malika Weeden

Associate Producers
Elizabeth Woller
Ashley Mui

Additional Camera by
Oskar Landi
Daniel Johnson
Elizabeth Woller

Assistant Editor
Liron Reiter

Original Music by
Chloe Flower
Drew Vella

Supervising Sound Editor
Laura Sinnott

2nd Camera
Jared Bazley
Michele Sala
Judith Stenneken

Production Sound
Judy Karp
A. Tad Chamberlain
Sabi Tulok

Production Assistants
Will Durrah
Taryn Akemi Look

2nd Unit - BRIC

Director of Photography
Cliff Charles

Lighting Director
Al Rivera

Assistant Camera
Mark Banning

Key Grip
Eddie Bernard

Best Boy Swing
David Brown II

Dancers and Stage Managers (in Alphabetical Order)

Alexandra Basmagy
Alexandra Pullen
Alexandre Hammoudi
Alexei Agoudine
April Giangeruso
Blaine Hoven
Brittany Degrofft
Calvin Royal
Cassandra Trenary
Christine Shevchenko
Courtney Lavine
Craig Salstein
Daniel Mantei
Danielle Ventimiglia
Daniil Simkin
David Hallberg
Duncan Lyle
Elina Miettinen
Eric Tamm
Gabrielle Johnson
Gemma Bond
Hannah Marshall
Herman Cornejo
Isadora Loyola
James Whiteside
Jamie Kopit
Jared Matthews
Jennifer Mcgrath
Jeremiah Bischoff
Jonathan Klein
Joo Won Ahn
Jose Sebastian
Julie Kent
Karen Uphoff
Katherine Williams
Kelley Potter
Kenneth Easter
Lauren Bonfiglio
Lauren Post
Leann Underwood
Lily Wisdom
Luciana Voltolini
Luis Ribagorda
Mai Aihara
Marcelo Gomes
Melanie Hamrick
Nancy Raffa
Nicole Graniero
Patrick Frenette
Paulina Waski
Puanani Brown
Scout Forsythe
Sean Stewart
Simone Messmer
Skylar Brandt
Stephanie Williams
Sung Woo Han
Thomas Forster
Zhong-Jing Fang

Editorial Assistants
Dylan Carlson
Holly Buechel

Titles and Graphics
Alana Salcer

Logan Seaman

Post-Production Services
Nice Dissolve

Archival Researcher
Syreeta Gates

Additional Graphics
Tilly Scott Pedersen
Andrew Landauro

Re-Recording Mixer
Ryan Billia

Music Engineer
Tom Gardner

Sound Effects Editor
David Forshee

Sound Editor
Chris Dickinson

Production Counsel
Gray Krauss Stratford Sandler Des

Rochers LLP

Archival Footage and Photographs Provided by

© E.O. Hoppe / Corbis
© infusny-05/42 / Corbis
Amy Sussman / Getty Images
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images
Kris Connor / Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Bernard Gotfryd /Getty Images
Rob Kim / Getty Images Entertainment
Donna Ward / Getty Images
Angela Sterling /Dutch National Ballet
Brenda Dixon Gottschild
Cindy Bradley
De Lavallade/Holder Collection
Diane Paragas
Dutch National Ballet
Earl Gibson III Photography
Bain Smith/House of Flowers
Fabrizio Ferri
Gene Schiavone
Gregg Delman / Rizzoli Publishing
Jim Caldwell / Houston Ballet
John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Leon Dubil / RIA Novosti
Leyla Fayyaz
Carl Van Vechten / Library of Congress
Liza Voll
Long Beach Press-Times
Marcia Wilson / Wide Vision Photography
Mesiyah McGinnis
Misty Copeland
Musee des Beaux-Arts
Bridgeman Images
Myra Armstrong
Penguin Books
Rachel Neville
Raven Wilkinson
Robyn Gardenhire
Rosalie O’Connor Photography
Scott Schlexer
Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Daily Breeze
The New York Times
Under Armour
Victoria Rowell
"Elle S'eleve II – Don Quixote" courtesy of David Fairchild

The Dancers and Stage Managers appear in this film through the courtesy of The American Guild of Musical Artists, AFL-CIO.

“A Cast of Characters by American Ballet Theatre” presented by Works & Process at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on April 29-30, 2012 ©SRGF, NY.

“The Spotlight Awards: A Young Artist’ Showcase” courtesy of The Music Center of Los Angeles County. The program was originally broadcast on KCET Los Angeles.

Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky.

“Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,”
Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust.

Choreography by Marcelo Gomes.

“Under Armour Commercial,”
Choreography by Marcelo Gomes.

Costumes by
Galina Solovyeva, “Firebird”
Theoni Aldredge, “La Bayadère”
Irina Tibilova, with additional costume design by Robert Perdziola, “Le Corsaire”


“Aria,” “Little March in A Minor”
Arranged and Performed by Mary Beth Roberts

“Pas de Voiles”
Written by Leo Delibes
Performed by Mary Beth Roberts

“La Bayadère”
Written by Marius Petipa
Arranged by George Oakley
Performed by
Inga Kashakashvili, Piano
Sha Wu, Cello

“Les Carnival des Animaux - XIII. Le Cygne” Written by Camille Saint-Saëns,
“String Quartet No. 14, D. 810 ‘Death and the Maiden’ - II. Andante con moto”
Composer Franz Schubert
Performed by
Hannah Min, violin
Wei-En Hsu, violin
Drew Vella, viola
Brian Hatton, cello
Zach Mo, piano

“Childhood,” “Harmonic Mediation”
Arrangement by D. Vella
Performed by
Hannah Min, violin
Wei-En Hsu, violin
Drew Vella, viola
Brian Hatton, cello
Zach Mo, piano

“Firebird Suite”
Infernal Dance
Written by Igor Stravinsky
Arranged by George Oakley
Performed by
Inga Kashakashvili, Piano

“D 957, No. 4 Standchen”
Written by Franz Schubert
Performed by Chloe Flower

“Purple Dream,” “Magic Hour”
Written and Performed by Chloe Flower

“Sleeping Beauty”
Written by Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky
Performed by Chloe Flower

“Say Watt”
Written and Performed by Bertin van Vliet

“Swan Lake”
Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performed by Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Written by Ian Ng
Performed by
Charles Yang, violin
Dimitri Dover, piano

“Violin Sonata in G minor, L 140 – l. Allegro Vivo”
Written by Claude Debussy
Performed by
Hannah Min, violin
Wei-En Hsu, violin
Drew Vella, viola

“Waking Up”
Written and Performed by Dexter Britain

Filmed in part on location at:

American Ballet Theatre
BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music)
BRIC Arts House
City Ballet of Los Angeles
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Music Center of Los Angeles County
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Steps on Broadway

The Met Marks are used with permission of The Metropolitan Opera

Special Thanks

Executive Producers
Misty Copeland
Gilda Squire

Supervising Producer for ITVS
Shana Swanson

Executive Producers for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer
Lois Vossen

Funding Provided by
Dorria Ball
Ford Foundation/JustFilms
American Express
Ingrid Graham
New Power Generation
Tribeca Film Institute Documentary Fund
Terri Hines
And others. A complete list is available from PBS.

A Ballerina’s Tale is a co-production of URBAN ROMANCES, INC. and INDEPENDENT TELEVISION SERVICE (ITVS), with funding provided by the CORPORATION FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING (CPB).

This program was produced by Urban Romances, Inc. which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2015 Urban Romances, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Are you a ballet aficionado? Did Misty Copeland make you more interested in ballet than you were before? Did you participate in a performing art as a child? Did you feel pressure to succeed? Who are some of your other favorite trailblazers in the arts?


  • African American Film Critics Association
    Best Documentary
Please review our comment guidelines.
Are you a ballet aficionado? Did Misty Copeland make you more interested in ballet than you were before? Did you participate in a performing art as a child? Did you feel pressure to succeed? Who are some of your other favorite trailblazers in the arts?