The Wind At My Back by Misty Copeland

I wanted to be a ballerina for a while when I was a kid. I studied ballet from about 5 years old til I started high school, and though I haven’t done ballet since then, I still love it and love to go see ballet whenever I can. Sadly this year I couldn’t go see the Nutcracker at my local theatre, but I did get to read this book, which helped.

I knew that Misty Copeland had written a book or two (she’s actually written quite a few, and they all look pretty interesting), and I was excited to read this one, which is about her and her relationship with her mentor and what she learned from her. In case you don’t know about her, Misty Copeland is the first female African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, which is the US national company from what I understand. She is a beautiful dancer and a wonderful role model, and she also had a Barbie doll made of her at one point, which I think is pretty cool. Since she is a role model herself, I was fascinated to read about her mentor and role model, and someone that I didn’t know about, Raven Wilkinson, who was the first African American ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. This was the most famous touring company of the 30s and 40s, and she toured with them as a dancer in the 50s when America was still openly segregated. An amazing person who I loved learning more about.

This book was written by Copeland with Susan Fales-Hill, and I think it’s a really good read. It has a really beautiful, natural flow, from idea to idea, or story to story. It’s a swift, even read, and I found myself moving through it in almost one sitting. I really liked the relationship between Copeland and her mentor Wilkinson. I love reading about women’s relationships like these and the bond between them was really lovely. It’s a wonderful portrait of female friendship. Or friendship in general, and I love seeing people lift each other up and reassuring each other.

I was also really interested in what the book had to say about people of colour in classical ballet, and the unique problems these dancers face. (I hated hearing about experiences of black dancers being pushed to do modern dance, as if they can’t be cultured enough to do classical. How stupid and enraging) Copeland quotes Wilkinson as saying “where and when I enter, the whole race enters with me”, and how this made her feel the burden, the pressure but also the promise of possibility. It’s a fascianting and eye opening read, and also very heartfelt. Beautiful.

Read It If: you wanted to be a ballerina when you were little or you have a friend who lifts you up. A lovely read and would make a great Christmas gift.

Thank you to HBG Canada for the copy of this book for review.

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