A Ballerina's Tale

Documentary maker Nelson George considers the lily-white culture of classical ballet and the precipitous rise of Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer in the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Copeland’s teenage years in Los Angeles were marked by a well-publicized custody battle in which she asked to be emancipated from her working-class mother so she could live with a white couple who were advancing her dance studies, but there’s no mention of this drama in the movie. George begins with Copeland’s subsequent arrival at the ABT when she was 16, focusing on how she bucked the norm of white, flat-chested, prepubescent-looking women and, by extension, the principle of uniformity so cherished in ballet. The movie’s second half centers on Copeland’s efforts to recover from a 2012 operation to repair fractures in her left shin, her subsequent return to the ABT celebrated with the title “Dreams do come true.” She registers here more as a phenomenon than as a person.