See How Misty Copeland Channels Edgar Degas

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“Control Freak” Appears at Ease in Latest Role

Copeland as Degas's Dancer

Misty Copeland, arguably one of the world’s most recognizable and favorite ballet dancers of today admits to being a bit of a “control freak.” She claims it is a trait shared by many dancers. Ironically, that being in control-over their body and their performance–is precisely how they create the illusion of freedom.

“You’re trying to strive for this perfection, but you still want people to get that illusion that your line never ends and that you never stop moving.”

The painter Edgar Degas was also a master of illusion. He created paintings of beautiful ballet dancers who seem to swirl and spin and curtsy, all while remaining still on the canvas.

Copeland re-creates Degas's The Star

She appears quite at ease in her modern interpretations of the master’s paintings. But she says that it was quite difficult. She didn’t quite feel in control of the situation. There were a lot of little details that someone else (hmmm, that would be Degas, we presume) imposed on her. She was attempting to replicate iconic images.

Another aspect that might have led to her discomfort was that Edgar Degas’ paintings of ballet dancers rarely focused on the performance. Often it was the behind scenes moments that caught his eye and became the subject of his paintings.

Even when painting the dancer on stage, Degas always seemed to be at an odd angle–rather than portraying the dance as an audience member would see it. He frequently depicted shadowy figures behind the curtain as the star was performing, or the troupe is shown in practice, out of sync, or the angle is off. All of this is about movement, color, and of course light.

This recent set of photographs recreating Degas’ ballet dancers is refreshing and illuminating. One dancer who has broken the mold, taking position on stage, posed by the painter who was intent on breaking tradition in his own way.


Read the entire article on Harpers Bazaar

Copeland as Degas’s Dancer
Copeland re-creates Degas’s The Star

Photographs by Ken Browar & Deborah Ory; Article by: Stephen Mooallem; Fashion Editor: Michelle Jank

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