tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera July 12, 2015 8:30am-9:01am EDT
iran next year when he's here in new york. i'm david shuster, in for ali velshi - thanks for watching. >> this week on talk to aljazeera a rising star in the ballet world misty copeland >> it was the first time i had an identity, and ot was through being a dancer >> one of six children raised by a single mother - copeland had a difficult childhood. >> i never felt a connection to anything or anyone. and i was constantly just trying to fit in >> misty copeland stumbled on to ballet at 13 she had natural talent.
>> as soon as i stepped into the ballet studio i started to realize that this is beautiful, and this is challenging. >> but she had to fight for the right to dance. emancipation. >> being in a public school and having your story postured all over the media, not just in california, but the united states, was traumatizing. >> not only did misty copeland face the challenge of her skin color, but her body type, featured in a national commercial. today misty cropland wants to pave the way for children of all ballerinas. >> to set an example, to push as hard as i can to make it as far as i can in the ballet world so they'll have an easier pass. >> i spoke to the ballet theatre soloist about her life story recently, in new york. tell me about the moment you discovered ballet. >> i say it discovered me, or it
found me. it happened - well, dance was always just a part of my natural state as a child. it's something that i - whenever music played, i was dancing. it became an escape to me, that i don't think i realized was that for many years. it was a way to escape the chaos of being one of six children, so many different things. >> and moving a lot. >> and moving a lot. so many things that weren't ideal as a child, and movement became that escape for me. when i was 13, i tried out for the dance team in my public school and was told i should take a ballet class at the boys and girls club where i was a member. i think it was when i stepped into the ballet studio, the actual studio, because my first class was on a basketball court, and i don't think i grasped what
ballet was, and i was extremely intimidated by it. it was when i stepped into the ballet studio that i started to realize "this is beautiful, and this is challenging, and this is the, like, extreme beauty escape life." >> the story goes from the moment you started you were basically a prodigy. it was what you were meant to be doing. did it feel that way? >> not until i became a professional did i understand the weight of the word and the expectations - whether or not you would succeed past being gifted at a young age. at the time it was fun. i was being pushed and challenged in something that i liked doing. i looked forward to learning every day and growing, and perfecting the incredible art form that i knew i was not going to perfect, but the challenge of approaching that was something i never experienced before. >> you said it was fun.
in your book you wrote "i was a nervous child. my unease coupled with a perpetual quest for perfection made my life harder than it needed to be." how so? >> this was definitely before dance, that i just never felt a real connection to anything or anyone. and i was constantly just trying to fit in. i didn't want to be the best at anything. i just wanted to blend in. and that was kind of my existence. throughout my family experiences at home, of just kind of blending in in the background through, you know, my other siblings, which was easy to do, i just was always so nervous that i was going to say the wrong thing or be judged. i think i got used to kind of hiding what was happening at home, that i was embarrassed
about, and it became who i was. >> let's talk about your home and ballet is very organized. there are rules, right. that you wrote, and talking about your family, our family began a pattern that would define my siblings, six of you totally, packing, scrambling, leaving, often barely surviving. you touched on this a little bit. but how did that define who you are now? >> i think that it has given me more appreciation for the incredible world i'm a part of now. it's given me appreciation for how fortunate i am to be on the path that i am, to have the opportunities that i have. i think it's given me a thicker skin. life experiences to pull from at a very young age, to become an artist on the stage, i think a lot of children who grow up blist fully unaware of what
happens, that once you get on stage as a professional, as a performer, it's, like, where am i pulling this from, to become another person, to become a character. i think that having the experiences i did at home kind of allowed me to dig deeper. >> so i look at them as tools, and something that i tried to turn in to something positive. >> tell me about your first bradley. >> cindy - i think that she was the first person that i felt believed i could do anything. i think my mother definitely thought that. she thinks that of all her children. just in the situation you grew up in, i don't think it was something that was spoken. and cindy would say it over and over again out loud. it was the first time i started to develop an identity of my own. i started to feel that i'm worthy
i have a voice, i'm good at something, and she never made me feel that i was different to anyone, because i was african american, because of my circumstances, because i started late. she would say you are so extremely special. that, though, led to a very turbulent time for you, whip yo - when you go to live with your teacher, and there's a point where your mother is not okay with that. talk to ma about the process you went through of suing your mother for emancipation. >> i was 15 years old. when i say that, 15 years old, i think i was at the maturity and mind-set of an 11 year old. i was definitely a late bloomer and did not come into my own until i was probably in my 20s, and i think that dancing definitely gave me the opportunity to explore and to
grow into the person that i don't think i could be without it. i would have never become this person without ballet. at that time, all i wanted to do was dance. and i was being told that - well, by my mother, first hand, that she wanted me to be home. which made complete sense. i've given you almost three years to live with your teacher and get the training you needed, and now you need to get home. then i was hearing from my teacher, if you leave now, you may not dance again. i don't know if that's the priority within your family situation. your mother is a single parent, you know. just trying to survive and keep her children off the street and in school and fed. i was kind of being pulled between two worlds. one of which was a world i started to grow accustomed to, the ballet world, and i saw my future there. and the thought of losing that was like death.
it was like i would die. >> wow. >> that was the identity that i - that i became. it was the first time i had an identity and it was through being a dancer. i felt special. the thought of losing that was terrifying. so to be 15 years old, and to be so private, just by nature, and to have this emancipation that unravelled and turned into something more than i ever thought it was going to be. i thought it was going to give me an opportunity to be an adult and make the decisions to continue dancing, on my own, that i would be able to do with my teacher and i could see my family and everything would be great. that's just not how things worked out. i think that both parties had my best interests at heart. and were trying to do what they could to do what they thought was best for me. but being in a public school and having your story postured all
over the media - not just within california, but all over the united states, was traumatizing. >> you actually say to this day i'm still trying to understand mummy. do you understand your mother adult? >> i have more of an understanding and appreciation. of course, i will never know probably until i'm a parent, but i try every day to understand. >> of course, you said the battle in my mind and spirit raged on. was that just you trying to work through the aftermath of everything. is that what that was? >> yes. to recover emotionally psychologically and then to be thrown into a new ballet studio. the only studio i knew was someone i took my first class at and was cynthia bradley. it was intimidating. people had preconceived ideas of
who i was because they saw me all over the newspapers, and it was terrifying for me to walk into a school and we judged and people looking at me as though this is a prodigy, let's see what she has. >> it was a lot of pressure. >> it was a lot of pressure and a lot to handle after going through what i went through. >> you are now one of the world's famous ballet dancers, you are a soloist at the american ballet theatre. have you commercials, books, a reality show. so many things have come after this difficult path that you had. did you ever envision - and i forgot, you danced with prince on stage - forgot that one. did you ever envision that this is what your life could be? >> no, no. it's hard to accept that it's a reality. i don't know, again, i'm just so humbled and
grateful for the bagged that i have and the situation that i have been through and be standing that i want to forever be able to give back to ballet what it's done for me. and that's the constant battle i have within myself, in improving myself to the ballet world, and getting out the exposure that i've been getting, that it's not about something as simple as someone wanting to be famous. i never wanted that. i want the ballet world to be given the respect that it deserves, and to be seen by more people. for so many to experience the beauty that i received from the ballet world. with every opportunity, and every incredible thing that
happens, it's just a shock. >> overwhelming. >> it's overwhelming. and i never step outside of myself and think it's me, that's a proud moment, that's the girl i mentored. that's ballet. it makes me so proud to be a part of it. >> that's a constant refrain in your book, for the brown girls, for the little brown girls that are constant. it's clear that that is what motivated you, and that's what drives you. i am sure there's little brown girls that meet you that probably get emotional when they see you. i can't imagine the pressure i would imagine. it has got to be kind of an hon you are, is it? >> i don't people any pressure from that at all. it's the same way i look at raven wilkinson
and how emotional i got the first time i spoke to her, hear her story, being the first african-american to dance in a ballet company, to experience what she went through. i saw myself in her, and i know that that's what they are seeing in me. and it pushes me to get going, setting an example to push as hard as i can as far as i can so they will have an easier past. >> you're watching "talk to al jazeera." stay with us as i speak to misty copeland about race and body image in the world of ballet.
>> i work really hard and i see myself having more of a future in classical dance, and not just doing contemporary dance, and that's what i started to see a change in my career, but people needs to understand that that's what i'm constantly saying, the kids that i'm mentoring, just because you're saying it doesn't mean that people hear it. you have to say it. >> at a very young age -- >> especially with dancers, it's ingrained in us, the
format how classical ballet works, you're forever a student, which we are, but you're in the classroom, and you don't speak, you just receive information from the front of the room. you're not asked for your opinion, so you kind of get used to not having a voice, and you can get lost in that. >> you do still take class? >> oh, yeah, you have to. as a professional, that never ends. it's not like -- it's how we warm up every day, and it's also how we fine-tune our instrument. so it's the same way -- instrumenting, i don't know what you call it when you fine-tune it. it keeps us in tip to form and shape. >> you're watching talk to aljazeera. >> [crowd chanting] hell no gmo. >> they're slamming a technology
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>> you're watching talk to aljazeera. i'm richelle carey, and our guest this week, someone who has taken the ballet world by storm. misty copeland. >> so i know that one of your goals was to be the first black principle dancer at the american ballet theater. is that your goal? >> i think every dancer's goal is to -- you know, when we
become dancers, we see those roles, and we dream of dancing these iconic roles. but of course that's my goal but i don't want it to overshadow what actually happens. because i'm so happy with the way things are. and the roles that i'm dancing and every time i get the opportunity to dance them. but it's not just a quick fight to get to this position. but it's about the journey and learning and becoming the artist that i'm becoming. so that if and when that happens, i will be completely ready, and comfortable to accept that role. >> i think that you're breaking down stereotypes in a way that people don't realize. and what you're doing on the stage is chipping away at that every day. >> i hope so.
that's the incredible thing about this art form, we have the opportunity to morph into these other characters and show that they're so much deeper than the labels and how people perceive the way they think we are. and what we're capable. and it's amazing to get an opportunity to prove them wrong. >> it has been an honor. >> thank you. >> you have to taste chocolate all day long. >> how one man's passion... >> you take a piece of chocolate and you break it and you listen. >> led to a lifelong obsession... >> i owe my life to chocolate. >> and a dark warning. >> the world will run out of chocolate by 2020. >> i lived that character. >> we will be able to see change.
>> welcome to the news hour, i'm richelle carey. the pressure is on, euro zone finance ministers be meeting to discuss a third bailout for greece. >> cautious optimism, u.s. secretary of state john kerry is hopeful iran and world powers could strike a nuclear deal but there's still tough issues. >> helped without