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Daily News Lesson: Misty Copeland's children's book works to eliminate stereotypes about ballet

January 15, 2021

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Directions: Watch the video clip, read the summary below and then answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video, click here.

Summary: Misty Copeland, a well-known American ballet dancer, recently published the children’s book “Bunheads,” about a young girl’s first ballet class. She based characters off of friends and mentors who have encouraged her talent over the years. 

  • The book is meant to “bring a more authentic and positive experience and light to how young people experience dance,” Copeland said.
  • She hopes her positive experiences in the dance world will help to eliminate negative tropes about ballet. 
  • Copeland is the first Black female principal dancer at American Ballet Theater in the company’s 75 year history and has been vocal about the need to create inclusivity for dancers of color who haven’t always historically been welcomed. 
  • The characters in her book are based on real experiences, with real people from her life. They are a diverse group of dancers who learn from each other’s differences and learn to support each other on stage.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: 

  1. Who is the author of Bunheads?
  2. Why is the author vocal about creating more inclusivity in dance?
  3. What is something the author hopes to accomplish from their book?
  4. Where did the ideas and characters from the book come from?
  5. How has Copeland’s experiences with dance shaped her perspective on the arts and entertainment industry?

Focus questions:

  1. Have you had any positive hobbies/experiences growing up that you think will be important throughout the rest of your life??
  2. What is a problem  (i.e. in Misty’s case, the lack of diversity and inclusivity in dance) or stereotype that you see in one of your passions which you could work to help fix?

Media literacy: Is there anything missing from the interview with Copeland that you wish the reporter had asked? Do you think you’ve learned about the most important aspects of Copeland’s story?

Additional resources: 

  • For middle school student Sean Varner, practicing dance brings peace and relief from anxiety. Watch Sean’s story and discuss different ways to cope with mental health. Find this Student Reporting Labs story here.

Written by Rebecca Shaid, EXTRA’s intern and Northwestern University student, and EXTRA’s Vic Pasquantonio


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