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Coronavirus will impact ballet for 'years to come’: Misty Copeland

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Misty Copeland, joins Influencers to discuss the pandemic's impact on the performing arts.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: What has been the impact on the artistic communities, specifically ballet, when it comes to coronavirus?

MISTY COPELAND: Wow. You know, I feel like a lot of the impact we haven't even seen yet. I feel like it's going to impact us for a couple of years to come. I think more so than anything, it's been difficult for people who spend their days, spend their lives, invested in this art form. And we're very physical people. I mean, we spend hours at a time partnering one another and in very intimate environments. So to be just yanked out of that and not have that personal human connection I think is a bit shocking emotionally, psychologically.

But you know, logically, just like so many people in the world, dancers have been furloughed. There's no way of making money right now when the theaters are shut down. So you know, it's been really difficult to be confined to these small places and not be able to keep up our training, which it's the same way that any professional football player or basketball player.

And I know a lot of them have training facilities in their homes and access to that, but dancers don't make that kind of money. So trying to maintain, staying in shape, and at a level to be able to kind of jump out of this whenever we can is pretty impossible.

So you know, part of my journey during COVID has really been to try and lend my platform and my voice to be able to help dancers who are without jobs, who are struggling to keep food on the table, a roof over their head, through an initiative that I helped to start called Swans for Relief to get funds out to different dancers from companies all over the world.

So I think in the long run that the dance world's going to learn from this, because we've never really been pushed to have a virtual presence. And I think this is kind of going to make us step up our game and be able to access more people around the world by having a virtual presence.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah. What's the path forward here, Misty, both in the short and intermediate term? Some are turning to outdoor performances, say theaters and concerts. Do you feel comfortable doing that? Have you done that, or would you do that?

MISTY COPELAND: I have not experienced it in this time. I have done it throughout my career. I mean, I think the hard thing is finding more of those types of venues. But I do think that that's a direction that we should be headed.

Just from my own experience and some of the some of the projects I'm working on with my production company, I've already been exploring, before this pandemic hit, that type of performance, where you're actually going into communities so that those communities feel like they're a part of it, because ballet can be so exclusive. And a lot of people, especially in the Black community, just haven't often felt like it was their world.

And so I think this is a big window and incredible opportunity for the dance world to be able to step up and really invite more people into our world. So I think that outdoor performances are definitely something that we should all be looking at. And even if you can open up your window-- I'm, like, looking out my window right here on the Upper West Side of New York City-- open your window and see a performance happening down in the street I think is unbelievable.