Kyle Abraham & Misty Copeland
Choreographer & Dancer
Renowned ballet dancer Misty Copeland and choreographer Kyle Abraham share a deep connection that shines brightly through in their creative collaborations. In 2019, Abraham choreographed an innovative solo performance that challenged expectations set for both Copeland and black dancers generally. Tonight, they offer their Brief But Spectacular take on communicating through movement.
Judy Woodruff: Renowned ballet dancer Misty Copeland and choreographer Kyle Abraham share a deep connection that shines brightly through in their creative collaborations.
Tonight, they offer their Brief But Spectacular take on communicating through movement, as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
Kyle Abraham: There’s so much that goes into making a new work, especially in this capacity where I get to collaborate with Misty.
There’s so much more to dance than just phrase-making or the steps.
What are you seeing and what are you feeling? It’s really important when you’re having a relationship with a choreographer and dancer to really talk about what the movement feels like. I’m not the one doing it.
Misty Copeland: That’s what’s so beautiful about what we do, is that it’s about our interpretation and how we make people feel.
Growing up in a single-parent home, one of six children, ballet gave me a sense of freedom, yet a sense of security, as well as opportunity. The more that I share my story and I’m actually in the communities that need to see people like me and people like Kyle, I think that’s, like, one of the most important things for me to do at this point in this stage in my career, is to be accessible and to give back what ballet has given to me.
Kyle Abraham: The Joffrey Ballet actually was the first dance performance I ever saw live. It just changed my life.
So many people can relate to going into their room, catching all the feels, and just letting it all out through movement. It didn’t occur to me until I saw a ballet that there was so much more that we can do to express ourselves as movers or just as people in general.
I think there are a lot of different expectations and assumptions when it comes to people seeing my work for the very first time. They don’t know that I started out in classical music. And I think it’s really doing a disservice to an audience, to a dancer, to a choreographer to make assumptions that we don’t have interests that go beyond what’s considered Black music or music of a certain culture.
Misty Copeland: And especially, I think, for Black people in dance, because we’re not given a voice and our stories are not being told, especially in classical works.
As much as I love the history and tradition of classical ballet, you don’t want to keep continuing on these stories that are — I don’t even know how to put it. I don’t want to play a slave girl anymore, you know? I want to be able to do works that are going to move the art form forward.
So, for me, when I think about those voices that aren’t being heard or stories that aren’t being told, it all relates back to who I’m doing this for. And it’s the next generation. It’s the little brown girls, the little brown boys.
Dance is what gave me confidence. It’s what gave me a voice. And I think that’s what it can do for other young people that feel like they don’t know how to tell their stories or to communicate and express themselves.
I’m Misty Copeland.
Kyle Abraham: I’m Kyle Abraham.
Misty Copeland: And this is our Brief But Spectacular take on…
Kyle Abraham: … communicating through movement.
Judy Woodruff: Such an inspiration.
And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.