American Ballet Theatre names Misty Copeland first black principal dancer

NEW YORK, June 30 (Reuters) - Misty Copeland, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre, will become its first African-American female principal ballerina, the dance company, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, said on Tuesday.

Copeland, 32, joined American Ballet Theatre in 2001 and has been a soloist with the prestigious dance company since 2007. She was among several dancers given new roles at a meeting the company held on Tuesday.

The Kansas City-born dancer follows in the footsteps of Desmond Richardson, a black male dancer who was made principal with the American Ballet Theatre in 1997.

Copeland is the author of a best-selling memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” and the subject of a documentary film, “A Ballerina’s Tale,” that was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. She has been a supporter of diversity in ballet and has been open about her goal to be made a principal dancer.

In her best-selling memoir, Copeland recounted her difficult early life and her struggle to become a leading ballerina in a world dominated by white dancers.

“It’s weird for minorities,” she wrote, “even just to buy tickets to the ballet. We feel like it’s not a part of our lives and we’re not a part of that world.”

Copeland has also appeared on the cover of Time magazine this year. Earlier this month she took on the lead role in the American Ballet Theatre production of “Swan Lake.”

Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Andrew Hay