In addition to being a legendary ballerina, philanthropist and public speaker, Misty Copeland is an activist who continues to address discrimination in the at-times racist world of ballet.
Copeland finally addressed how she felt after receiving backlash last December for calling out the Bolshoi Theatre in Russia for dressing up their ballet dancers in blackface.
“They’re one of the biggest, most elite companies in the world, they’re in Russia and they still perform in blackface,” Copeland said during an appearance at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Las Vegas last Friday, referring to the Bolshoi Theatre.
“I…made it aware to the broader world just by posting a photo of the little girls in blackface. I don’t think I can ever go back to Russia now,” she said, jokingly. “I don’t think they’ll let me in.”
Back in December, Copeland took to Instagram to call attention to the company’s use of blackface, complete with dark-colored tights on the dancer’s face, arms and legs for a ballet titled La Bayadère, set in India. Copeland wrote in a caption, “And this is the reality of the ballet world.”
“And I’ve gotten so much backlash, which is just crazy,” Copeland shared last weekend of her post. “It turned into me bullying some little girls because I exposed what they are doing and have been doing.”
The artistic director, Vladimir Urin, has long defended his use of blackface. In fact, he told state-run news agency, RIA Novosti, that the theater “will not be included in such a discussion,” noting that the ballet has been performed with blackface for years.