Anne Lauren Luben's picture
  • Dish
  • 31 January 2018
Raven Wilkerson & Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland is certainly a name you've heard before. She's everywhere - commercials, advertising campaigns, even movies. As the first African-American female principal dancer in ABT, Copeland is an inspiration for girls all over the world, particularly for females of color. But before she danced onto the scene, there were others paving the way. One of those dancers was Raven Wilkerson.

Born in 1935, Wilkerson became the first black ballerina to join the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo when she was just twenty years old. She toured with the company for six years, and faced racism and violence during her travels, particularly when the company performed in the southern United States.

Wilkerson has written a book called "Trailblazer", which is based on her career and experiences as a black dancer in the 1950's. It follows her through performances with not only Ballet Russes, but the Dutch National Ballet and New York City Opera. The book ends with her presenting flowers to Misty after her debut in ABT's Swan Lake.

Copeland has often referred to Wilkerson as her mentor, and recently wrote and published her own book called "Firebird." What wonderful examples of strong and powerful women - we can't wait to see more young dancers continue what they've started!