Just three years ago, Misty Copeland made ballet history when she became the first Black woman to ever be promoted to principal in American Ballet Theater. It was a groundbreaking moment for the company, which is considered the crème de la crème of the ballet world, and for Black dancers everywhere. Now, Copeland is a household name, with an Under Armour endorsement and a Barbie made in her likeness.
But to understand why Copeland's rise to fame is so significant, it's important to acknowledge the classical dancers who broke into the historically whitewashed art form long before her. In honor of Black History Month, here are the some of the other Black dancers who set the stage for Copeland's success.
It's Black History Month, but at Refinery29, we believe in celebrating Black voices, Black art, and Black women 365 days of the year. Follow us on Instagram at @r29unbothered for more on issues that affect Black women's everyday lives.