Black Art Spotlight: A Ballerina's Tale (The Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland)

Tonight to end my #29DaysofBlackness blog series, I decided to relax in bed with a glass of wine and  watch a recent addition to the Netflix streaming catalog, "A Ballerina's Tale" (2015). If you have not heard of this documentary, it tells the story of the rise of ballet dancer, Misty Copeland. Before watching this film, I knew a few things about Misty and her ballet career but I did not know the full story of her triumphs and struggles rising through the ballet world as a black ballerina. Her story is truly inspiring. Despite starting ballet dancing very late, at age 13 (which is very old for ballet dancers), she was able through hard work, passion, and innate talent to become the first black principal ballerina in the prestigious American Ballet Theater Company. Throughout the documentary, Misty pays homage to the black ballerinas that came before her in effort to motivate herself and educate others on these dance trailblazers.

Whether or not you are a ballet or dance fan, I highly recommend everyone watch this film, especially with young brown girls, to show them that you really can "will what you want."

Film Description

Few dancers make it to the highest levels of classical ballet. Of that already small number only a fraction of them are black women. Misty Copeland, from the small California city of San Pedro, has pulled herself up the ladder at American Ballet Theater (ABT) from the studio company to the corps de ballet to soloist. The only rung in the ladder left to climb is principal dancer aka prima ballerina.

In 2013, after more than a decade at American Ballet Theatre Misty was offered the lead role in Igor Stravinsky's Firebird to be performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera House, a major coup for a soloist.

The nigh

t of her performance Misty danced beautifully. But at the celebration afterwards she revealed she had been performing in great pain. Later Misty found out that she had six fractures in her left shin. Without corrective surgery the shin might one day break. Many doubted she would dance again.

A Ballerina's Tale is then an intimate look at this artist during a crucial period of her life. The bulk of the film is a cinema verité influenced look at Misty's journey, from the triumph of Firebird, the painful road back to dancing and to an unexpected third act where Misty not only returns to the American Ballet Theatre stage but emerges as a pop star in the process.

Misty Copeland's career shines a light on several challenges within the world of classical ballet: the absence of women of color at major companies despite so many gifted black women ready to make the leap; the emphasis on skinny bodies for ballerinas impacts the health of professional dancers and sends a negative message to young fans around the world. Misty, because of her race and her curves, is central to both issues in the classical dance world.

The film climaxes with a landmark performance by Misty in Swan Lake, which is an acknowledgement by American Ballet Theatre that she is back, dancing at the highest level, and the fulfillment of the dream of many to see a true black swan at a mainstream international company. A Ballerina's Tale is the story of how a great talent and a powerful will combined can open doors within a very cloistered world.

Major funding provided by Ford Foundation/JustFilms and Tribeca Film Institute.

For more information contact: aballerinastale@gmail.com

*film description taken from http://www.aballerinastale.com/about/

What I Am Reading: Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

This fall, I thought it would be fun to mix my love for books with my love for movies by reading books that have been made into films, that I have watched (and in some cases loved). Using my library card, I have borrowed a several books from the Old Colony Library Network, which specializes in ebooks and audiobooks. Since September, I have borrowed and read, Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park," its sequel "The Lost World," and "Congo," and Lois Lowry's "The Giver." So far, the books have been way better than the movies (with the main exception of "Jurassic Park," whose movie surpassed the book with its simpler storyline and amazing Stephen Spielberg-directed visuals.) 

Now I am diving into James Patterson's Alex Cross novels, starting with "Along Came A Spider." I am currently on chapter 27 and I wonder why the movie, starring Morgan Freeman, did not more closely follow the book's storyline. 

I am really enjoying this movie to book experience. It gives me a better understanding of the movies, including their strengths and weaknesses, and helps me better visualize the concepts and themes of the books. If you are looking for a book club theme or just some reading list ideas, I highly recommend reading a books that have been made into Hollywood movies. 

Here are my reading suggestions for books that have been made into films:

Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, the Hunger Games Triology by Suzanne Collins, The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Congo, and Sphere by Michael Crichton, Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls by James Patterson, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Book 

Synopsis*

A missing little girl named Maggie Rose.

A family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C.

The thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher.

A psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who calls himself the Son of Lindbergh. He is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him — even after he's been captured.

Gary Soneji is a mild-mannered mathematics teacher at a Washington, D.C., private school for the children of the political and social elite. He's so popular that the kids all call him "Mr. Chips." And he's very, very smart. Growing up, he always knew he was smarter than the rest of them — he knew that the Great Ones always fooled everybody. He kidnaps Maggie Rose, the golden-haired daughter of a famous movie actress, and her best friend, Shrimpie Goldberg, the son of the secretary of the treasury, right out from under the noses of their two Secret Service agents. But Gary Soneji is not surprised at his skill. He's done it before. Hundreds of times before.

Alex Cross is a homicide detective with a Ph.D. in psychology. he looks like Muhammad Ali in his prime. Cross works and lives in the ghettos of D.C. He's a tough guy from a tough part of town who wears Harris Tweed jackets and likes to relax by banging out Gershwin tunes on his baby grand piano. He has two adorable kids of his own. They are his own special vulnerabilities.

Jezzie Flanaganis the first woman ever to hold the highly sensitive job as supervisor of the Secret Service in Washington. Blond, mysterious, seductive, she's got an outer shell that's as tough s it is beautiful. She rides her black BMW motorcycle at speeds of no less than 100 mph. What is she running from? What is her secret?

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair-at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji, who wants to commit the "crime of the century," is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happened in Alex Cross's precinct. They happened under the protection of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Soneji is at large again, still wreaking havoc.

Alex Cross must face the ultimate test as a psychologist: how do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath? Especially one who appears to have a split personality — one who won't let the other half remember those horrific acts?

Soneji has outsmarted the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police. Who will be his next victim?

Gary Soneji is every parent's worst nightmare. He has become Alex Cross's nightmare. And now, reader, he's about to become yours.

*Book synopsis taken from http://www.jamespatterson.com/books_alongCameASpider.php#.VkFN74RZkz8