Via Zoom: Misty Copeland on Her Book ‘The Wind at My Back’

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – There is no bigger current icon in American ballet than Misty Copeland. The dancer, who experienced a meteoric rise nearly from the moment she took First Position, was the first black dancer to be named to Principal at the American Ballet Theatre. She has written a new book, about her mentor Raven Wilkinson, entitled “The Wind at My Back.”

The book … subtitled “Resilience, Grace and Other Gifts from My Mentor Raven Wilkinson” … is a memoir about her friendship with the trailblazing Wilkinson, which captures the importance of mentorship, shared history, and honoring the past to ensure a stronger future. Until Copeland had her breakthroughs, Wilkinson had been virtually alone in her quest to breach the all-white ballet world, when she fought to be taken seriously as a Black ballerina in the 1950s and 60s. “The Wind at My Back” tells the story of two unapologetically black ballerinas, their friendship, and how they changed each other – and the dance world – forever.

Misty Copeland at Central College of DuPage
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Copeland’s starstruck career began in her early teens, as she took an enthusiasm for gymnastic dance into her first ballet lessons at a Boys & Girls Club in Gardena, California. She was noticed by a nearby dance center, and through a close and intense training with dance guardians, she won her first national ballet contest at age 14. She also began her connection with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), which was the only company that was ever on her radar.

In 1999, she performed with ABT as part of their Summer intensive program, and joined its Studio Company in 2000. At the onset of her 19th birthday she experienced a delayed puberty, and her body changed considerably, away from the wispy standard of the prima ballerinas. With support, she accepted this new reality, and used it to gain acceptance for a new standard. She became a soloist at ABT in 2007, and since 2008 has been the only black member of the dance company, even in her role as its principal. She has danced many of the major characters in classical ballet, and has worked with the famed choreographer Twyla Tharp and the late pop star Prince. “The Wind at My Back” is her eighth book, and she has become a cultural influencer, commercial spokesperson and activist.

In Part One of an interview with Patrick McDonald of, Misty Copeland talks about her new book …

In Part Two, of dancing injuries, Twyla Tharp and expression of self in dance roles …

Misty Copeland was photographed by Joe Arce of on November 17th, 2022, at a book signing event hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop of Naperville (Illinois) at the Central College of DuPage.

“The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace and Other Gifts from My Mentor Raven Wilkinson” by Misty Copeland is available at Anderson’s Bookshop or wherever new books are sold. Source for this article from senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor, Film Writer

© 2022 Patrick McDonald,

User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing


Advertisement on Twitter

archive Top Ten Discussions