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Performance: Black Swan Variation

Misty Copeland

Lesson time 6:30 min

Misty discusses how she prepares her pointe shoes and which type she chooses for different performances. Then she demonstrates a warm-up at the barre and performs a solo variation from Swan Lake.

Misty Copeland
Teaches Ballet Technique and Artistry
American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland teaches you how to build your technique, embrace your story, and own your movement.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - I'm going to put my pointe shoes on and just do a couple of releves at the bar just to get my feet warmed up in a pointe shoe. So I actually don't wear any pads or anything in my shoes. I was trained that way because my teacher thought that when you don't have anything between your foot and the shoe, you'll have more control over articulating your toes. As painful as it was in the beginning, it's really easy for me to just kind of slip them on. And you know, you build up all of the calluses and everything to make your foot strong so that it doesn't hurt as much. A lot of people are kind of shocked when they realize I'm not-- I'm just like, tough it out. Yeah, also, I've been coloring my own pointe shoes my skin color since I started dancing. Yeah, so they come, you know, in European pink, which is a very interesting choice of words. And I think that that's kind of a subtle and subconscious way of, I think, excluding brown and black dancers. And so I think that's something that I'm constantly fighting for, you know, more inclusion. But one day, we won't have to pancake our own pointe shoes. They'll come in our skin color. A very important part of a ballerina's performance is how her shoes are prepared and making sure that they're the right strength. Depending on what role I'm doing with "Swan Lake," I like my shoes to be a lot harder. And then in other roles like maybe Juliet, I wear a much softer pointe shoe because you do a lot of walking and running. And you don't need as much support so OK. I'm doing a few releves here to get my feet warmed up. Since this variation includes larger moves, I'm going to show you the full performance and then a slowed-down version. OK. [MUSIC PLAYING] CREW: DIRECTOR: OK, here we go. Ready and action. [MUSIC PLAYING] - It's really interesting that I chose to share the Black Swan variation because it's something that I've struggled with, you know, since I started doing "Swan Lake." The choreography that I find most challenging is probably the very first step-- a double pirouette that goes into an attitude turn. And then you finish and plié and attitude. When I'm dancing, I want it to be a story. And so it's a little bit awkward to start off a variation like cold. Like that's the first thing you do is this, like, very technical thing instead of, like, kind of having this, like, warm-up into whatever it is you're saying. And so that tends to be more difficult for me if I can't make it feel organic and like I'm really saying something. So I tend to struggle with things like that. I want to be able to feel confident in things that have scared me before. And so you know, as a dancer and as a performer, you know, you may do the same ballets over and over and over again, the same roles. And you may have different challenges with different parts of it every time you do it. And I feel like this time around in preparing for Swan Lake...

Bring emotion to life

As the first African American female principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland made history. Now she’s one of the world’s most influential dancers, and she’s inviting you to the barre to develop a deeper appreciation for ballet and the language of dance. From pliés to partners, Misty demonstrates her techniques and teaches you to own your movement, own who you are, and do the dance only you can do.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about classical ballet, an art form I love. To learn more about it from Misty Copeland was an added bonus. Her story is inspiring and the insights and lessons learned she shares have a value that extends far beyond the stage. Well done!

It teached me the terminology and the language of the ballet. Also I've learned an ongoing struggle for people of color to make it in this industry.

confidence to do what I want and not be dictated by what anyone else thinks I am capable of doing.

SUCH a GREAT class! She's such an inspiration.


A fellow student

Misty heightened my awareness to the subtlety of the color of the ballet shoes. I had never considered it before. New use for pancake makeup. I liked that she shared what her naked feet look like and her decision not to use pads in her shoes and why. Subsequently I just enjoyed watching her dance.

A fellow student

Wow...just an observer, but I enjoyed seeing the rehearsal version in order to appreciate the physicality involved as opposed to the costumes, set and live orchestra.

Russell B.

As a dancer I'm loving her honesty, talent, hard work and creativity. I'm very inspired. The closeups are super helpful as no one ever shoots that in ballet. I can really see her technical execution and attention to detail. Each movement is a choice to train a certain way, and it helps to see that. There are thousands of full-body-in-frame dance videos out there for people to watch if they want entertainment.

Michelle K.

Terrible filming decisions have been made here. Everybody with just a tiny bit of ballet knowledge knows you HAVE to film the whole body, otherwise dance is super frustrating to watch. Also the frame rate chosen for this is way too low, the movements look choppy. Why wouldn't Master Class use a director and camera guy with an ounce of experience filming dance?! We pay so much money and this is so hard to watch.


The camera man needs to show the whole body during the dance, not just the feet and the face.

Goi H.

Beautiful performance as ever. But mr. camera man. Can you please just shot her from a far we wanna see the line. The camera man kept zooming in and out till i cant see her best features. I love her extensions and her pointe works with the zooming in and out all those details are lost

A fellow student

If Misty designs her own ballet shoes for colored women, I’d be down to get them. You are so amazing Misty.

Lisandrea W.

It just won't play for me--I've tried half a dozen times over different days & times of day..

Regina D.

Some of Misty Copeland's quotes were so refreshing I had to write them down. Here they are: 1. We are constantly starting over again 2. Every day you dance is another chance to be reborn!!! [wow] 3. Owning your power and your voice 4. Be careful in believing people’s words/Criticism of saying you’re not good enough 5. Getting past that 6. Confidence 7. Embrace who you want to be in the future 8. Addressing those things that make you insecure, and it will only get easier from there