Misty Copeland’s ballet career didn’t start out the traditional route. Copeland was discovered way beyond the “normal” ballet priming time. At the age of 13, while at her local Boys & Girls Club, a dance teacher spotted her and pushed her to study. By the age of 18, she was dancing with the American Ballet Theater (ABT). Although Copeland hasn’t made principal dancer, she’s the ABT’s first black soloist in 20 years and only third black female soloist in the company’s history.

In an effort to find more black ballerinas, Copeland has partnered with the ABT on their initiative called Project Plié.

Project Plié plans to make partnerships with regional ballet companies and Boys and Girls Clubs of America—where she was discovered—ABT also plans to offer scholarships to promising dancers of color, in hopes of creating a pipeline of performers from underrepresented groups. It hopes that a more racially diverse cast of performers also leads to a broader audience.

“We have an access problem in a big way,” said Rachel Moore, ABT’s chief executive. “The demographics of this country are radically changing. We’re not going to be relevant in 50 years if we don’t look like America. We sincerely believe that diversifying the art form at its training level will strengthen and broaden the pipeline of future artists and help ensure ballet’s continued relevance in the 21st century”

Project Plié’s advisory committee includes Virginia Johnson, the artistic director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Nigel Lythgoe, the executive producer of “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Frank Sanchez President and CEO of Boys & Girls Club of America.

Project Plié’s scholarship program is for students between the ages 9-18:

  • 15 full scholarships to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre Children’s and Pre-Professional Divisions
  • 15 full scholarships to attend ABT’s Summer Intensive Programs, five of which will include housing stipends
  • 10 full scholarships to ABT’s Young Dancer Summer Workshop in New York City, a two-week program for young dancers, aged 9-12.

Project Plié scholarship recipients will be eligible to receive comprehensive training in classical dance, financial assistance for uniforms, shoes and travel, and access to academic tutoring, health assessments, career guidance and mentoring from ABT’s dancers and teaching staff.

For more information about Project Plié scholarships, please contact Richard Toda [email protected]

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